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India: Death for Inter-caste marriage

Tuesday 12 December 2017, by siawi3


A cash deal, a hotel room and Kausalya’s words: The evidence in Sankar murder case

1 day ago

Investigators and prosecutors agree that they had never seen another caste-hate crime in which so many people conspired together so brazenly.

“My Amma threatened me repeatedly that she will kill me. She told me I was better off dead than married to him,” 20-year-old Kausalya Sankar told Tirupur Principal District and Sessions Judge Alamelu Natarajan.

Kausalya’s husband, a 22-year-old Dalit man named Sankar, was brutally hacked in broad daylight on March 13, 2016, the grievous wounds leaving him dead in a few hours. But Sankar wasn’t the only target. The three killers also attacked Kausalya with sickles, fracturing her head.

The attackers had a clear plan: kill Sankar, and if Kausalya resists, kill her too. However, despite the blows she received, Kausalya survived the brutality and became the prime witness in a caste-hate crime that shook Tamil Nadu. On Tuesday, 21 months after Sankar was killed, the court will pronounce its verdict on the ghastly murder.

Sankar, a Dalit man, and Kausalya, who hails from the socially dominant Thevar community (OBC), had been married for just eight months before that fateful March day. There had already been many attempts by her parents to separate the couple. But when none of their persuasion worked, a plot was hatched to kill Sankar.

“The plan was hatched by Kausalya’s father Chinnasamy, his wife Annalakshmi and maternal uncle Pandi Durai. An auto driver who overheard them has become an important witness in the case,” Special Public Prosecutor U Sankaranarayanan appointed by the TN government told TNM.

The conspiracy

Kausalya’s father, a taxi driver by profession, had already kidnapped her once. However, when she escaped from their clutches, they offered Rs 10 lakh to Sankar to break off the marriage. But Sankar refused the money.

“They decided to kill her. Then came the next part, who will execute the killing? This is when Chinnasamy approached a distant relative, a man who already had a criminal background, Jagadeesan,” says Udumalaipettai Deputy Superintendent of Police Vivekanandan.

Jagadeesan, in turn, called in four daily wage laborers to execute the murder. They were his friends, and were already accused in other crimes, including murder.

Selvakumar, Manikandan, Michael and Kalai Tamilselvan were then introduced to Kausalya’s father, says the chargesheet.

One of the crucial pieces of evidence in the case is a sum of Rs 50,000 that Chinnasamy withdrew from his bank account, to pay the four men. A portion of this money was recovered from them when they were arrested. The name under which a hotel room was booked for them was also incriminating.

“Chinnasamy withdrew Rs 50,000 and gave it to these men. He also took a hotel room in Palani for them in how own name. We had enough evidence to show that he had booked the room for these men, and in the week they stayed there, they constantly tailed Kausalya and Sankar,” says the DSP.

March 13 was a Sunday, and the young couple had decided to go shopping in Udumalaipettai town, just a few kilometres from Sankar’s house. “The killers got a chance and they did not hesitate even once in executing the murder. But what is disturbing is the way they behaved after they hacked the couple. In the footage, one can clearly see that they were not fleeing, they got on their bikes leisurely and left,” says Sankaranarayanan.

The CCTV footage that clearly captured the murder and the forensic evidence that matched the faces of the men with their regular photographs is clinching evidence, the prosecution has argued.

“There are also two more important witnesses. An auto driver named Venugopal and a food vendor named Ramasamy had witnessed the attack. They are also clearly visible in the footage. They tried to intervene, but were immediately threatened off by the killers,” the Special Public Prosecutor adds.

Other forensic evidence from both Sankar and Kausalya’s clothes, the CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts are sufficient to prove the involvement of the three men who hacked the couple, the prosecution believes.

But can the involvement of the parents be proved beyond doubt? “Of course,” says Vivekanandan, “Chinnasamy never bothered to cover up his tracks. He had met the killers in the hotel room, he paid them money and they have threatened Sankar and his family many times. This wasn’t a crime that they wanted to hush up; they were trying to make a statement to society.”

But the most important witness in the case, both agree, is Kausalya herself. The young woman has been resolute in court, recounting the threats and what happened on that fateful day.

There is one other thing the prosecution and investigators agree on: they had never seen a caste-hate crime that so brazenly involved so many people in the conspiracy.



Caste was more important to my parents than love: Kausalya, whose husband was killed

1 day ago

21-year-old Kausalya whose husband Sankar was hacked to death last year, has featured in a documentary where she tells children how to fight caste divides.

(There are no castes, child. Calling some inferior or superior on the basis of one’s race is a sin. Those who are just, highly intellectual, educated and possess plenty of love are all superior.)

Those who read Tamil poetry, are no strangers to these words penned down by poet Subramaniya Bharathiyar in the 19th century, when the state was grappling with deep caste divides. But now, several decades later, to say that we have overcome the non-existent sense of superiority that caste provides would be a lie.

And documentary filmmaker Geetha Elangovan has depicted this through a victim of caste violence in the third part of her documentary series — Jaathigal Illayadi Pappa.

‘Didn’t understand how deep-rooted caste identity was in family’

In this 27-minute video which released on December 6, five children ask questions about caste to 21-year-old Kausalya who lost her husband to this social evil in March 2016. In a case of caste-killing, her 21-year-old husband Sankar, who was a Dalit, was murdered at Udumalaipettai in Tiruppur. He died on the way to the Coimbatore Government Hospital where his body has been kept. Kausalya, too, was severely injured but survived the attack. The main accused in the case is her father, who allegedly decided to kill the couple for marrying out of caste.

The verdict for the case is set to be delivered by a Tiruppur court on December 12.

“My parents used to be extremely affectionate towards me and showed me more love than even my brother,” says Kausalya in the documentary. “They bought me whatever I wanted but when I married out of my community, the anger induced by caste, hid the love they had for me,” she tells the children.

Kausalya describes that her first brush with the caste system was as a child. Her father used to pick her up from school and noticed that one of her best friends was from the lower caste and told her to stop talking to that student. “At that point of time I did not understand how deep-rooted the caste identity was in my family,” Kausalya tells TNM. “But it became obvious after I fell in love with Sankar,” she adds.

The documentary uses children to ask important questions on why caste is still relevant in modern society. One child actually asks Kausalya why caste trumps even love and she replies, “My parents who claimed to love me so much, never understood my choice to love Sankar. They had never even spoken a word to him when he was alive. Caste was too important for them to see anything else.”

According to Kausalya, the first question her family asked when they came to know about her love interest was which caste he belonged to. “The minute I told them, they said it won’t work out and left to look for a groom for me the next day,” says Kausalya. “They feared what society will say and could only look at the issue from the perspective of caste,” she adds.

How to fight caste

But it is when the children ask how to fight caste that the young woman visibly brightens. “We have to fight it day by day. We have to consider everyone equal when it comes to education, food and marriage,” she says.

Speaking to TNM on her experience of working with children, Kausalya says, “I believe that the next generation is the key to transforming society. Only if we talk to young kids and strengthen the roots, will the tree grow to its full potential. Children are susceptible to the thoughts of their parents. They should be able to differentiate between what is bad and good.”

Drawing from her own experiences, she says, “Caste became more important to my parents than love.”

Kausalya, who now describes herself as an anti-caste activist, states that parents believe they have the right to dictate their children’s lives because they brought them up. “But bringing up your children is your duty, it is not a right. And they are not your property,” she explains.

The filmmaker, quotes Bharathiyar poem and says that while we preach the values, we fail to practice them in our homes. “We tend to hide such social evils from children. But unless they know the effect of this terrible system, they will not learn to avoid it,” says Geetha.

Her three-part series on caste, has children asking question to activists and educationalists in the first part and to manual scavengers in the second.

The first two parts of Jaathigal Illayadi Pappa were released on April 14 to mark Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. Part three of the documentary featuring Kausalya was released on December 6 to mark Ambedkar’s death anniversary.

“We approached Kausalya for the third part because we wanted to show the children the loss that belief in this system can lead to,” she adds.