Casteism runs deep in the veins of the country. When the government put the country of 1.3 billion people in lockdown, the people ensured their casteist practices were not made to go under lockdown. In a telling example of the casteism of the country, a case of honour killing was filed in Tamil Nadu. A 24-year-old man was murdered in his village for marrying outside of his caste.
The man had returned to his village from Chennai once the lockdown was announced. After he came back, he made attempts to meet his wife. This enraged the women’s family and relatives which lead to them killing him.
According to a Frontline report, M. Sudhakar, the victim, came from Morappan Thangal village near the town of Arani in the Tiruvannamalai district. Both the man and the women belonged to groups that were classified as most backward classes.
Sudhakar was from the Oddar caste, which is considered the lowest among the most backward classes. The woman belonged to the Vanniayar community from Ondikudisai hamlet. Sudhakar and she fell in love, ran away, and got married to each other at Walajah six months ago. The woman’s family was strongly opposed to this marriage and convened the local panchayat to annul the marriage. The couple was forcefully separated. Sudhakar was beaten up and harassed and was forced to leave the village.
Sudhakar’s parents were daily wage labourers and they could say nothing against the judgement of the panchayat. Worried about their son’s safety, they sent him to Chennai to work as a labourer. Sudhakar’s parents would go visit him in Chennai so that he would not come back to the village.
Once the nationwide lockdown was announced Sudhakar found it difficult to earn a living and was forced to return to his village. “But what he did subsequently had cost his life.
He made an attempt to meet his wife, which infuriated the girl’s relatives and caste people,” said Selvam. When Sudhakar was alone in his village on March 27, the woman’s father, along with a relative, attacked and killed him.” Said P Selvam, secretary of the Tiruvannamalai District Untouchability Eradication Committee, a wing of the CPI (M), who has taken up the issue.
“The government must arrest those who sat in the local panchayat that nullified the legally solemnised marriage,” said A. Kadir, executive-director of a Madurai based NGO, ‘Evidence’
Soon after the killing, a case was registered at the Aarani town Police Station. When the case was being filed, the women’s parents and relatives surrounded the police station. The girl’s father and cousin were identified as the perpetrators and were arrested.
Sugumaran from the Federation for People’s Rights told Frontline that it was said that new legislation was needed to deal with honour killings. According to him, many Dalits face violence in their villages but only a few cases come to light. He also added, in a conversation with Frontline “The respective district administrations must remain sensitive to such developments and chalk out a comprehensive plan so that those facing threats are insulated from any sort of violence.”
Many Dalits moved to cities in search of jobs to escape the discrimination they faced in villages. Once the lockdown was imposed, they were forced to return to their villages because they had no other means of income. This could mean that there would be a rise in violence against them. The lockdown is affecting Dalits more than others as they are not insulated against this violence anymore.