300 Dalits were murdered in Tamil Nadu between 2016 and 2020
This is a sad story on ‘Honour killings’ in Tamilnadu, the land of ‘self-respect movement,’ being published on December 6 to mark the death anniversary of BR Ambedkar. This is Part-1 of a two-part article.
Honor killings, an euphemism for murder, is violence committed by a group of one community to discourage, curb or annul marriages between persons of different communities, motivated by a perceived affront to the honor of the community, basically a feudal and patriarchal value. It could be a marriage between individuals of two religions (eg. Hindu-Muslim) or two castes (eg. SC with OC or BC or OC; it is more vicious when SC is involved). Murder in the name of honor, which is preceded by other forms of violence, including physical and psychological abuse, kidnapping, and torture. The perceived affront often stems from a woman exercising her right to choice, by marrying a man perceived to be lower in communal and caste hierarchy. It could be vice versa too. This is patently illegal, and unconstitutional, but is backed by relatives of the spouse, and sections of the dominant community. Dating, consensual or nonconsensual premarital sex, refusing an arranged marriage, and such other things could also be associated with it.
Connivance of the state and other agencies
The authorities of the State often connive in it by not recording it, not filing FIRs, and foiling the case even when it is filed under pressure. In the latter cases, the police often work as mediators, and negotiate a price by way of compensation; this they do both before and after the marriage and murder, counseling the couple to desist from, or even annul, marriage.
Thus the (local and ‘vernacular’) media is also managed not to report it, and not to do follow up reportage even when it is covered in early phases: Crime news is, as a rule, closely guided by police, and is rarely independent investigation, unless lot of public furore is involved. Only when the assailants are poor and ‘lowly’, media does some investigation.
The legal profession is roped in: Lawyers mediate, advise, and dissuade the couple to give up the marriage, both before and after it takes place. With police, prosecutors and advocates acting in tandem, and false and infirm cases are filed, the Courts do the needful: They mostly acquit real culprits, after prolonged litigation that allows for manipulations, and vexes and wears out the victims.
The medical profession is almost fully in service; private doctors do not admit such people; or admit only if it is presented as a case of accident rather than assault. After death, only when insisted, a post-mortem is conducted, but the forensic specialists almost never record their actual findings; they are closely linked with local police who advise them suitably.
That is how civil society is functioning : it is lax if not complicit in this. Those who raise such issues are silenced, suppressed, branding them variously..like urban naxals.
Judiciary is no better: It has come to light that 300 Dalits were murdered in Tamil Nadu between 2016 and 2020, and only in 13 cases were sentences pronounced, reported N Vinoth Kumar, in thefederal.com, 27 September, 2021.
First we shall see a recent report of November, 2021: ( by Nivedha Selvam, 10 November, 2021, the federal.com.).
It is a very typical, not exceptional report. A close reading helps to understand the modus operandi in such cases.
Dalit youth dies in TN’s Kanyakumari, kin allege ‘honour killing’ by Caste Hindus
That is the title of report given below:
Relatives of the 28-year-old youth have alleged that police have termed the death a suicide and declined to file a case of murder.
Relatives of a 28-year-old Dalit youth in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district have alleged that he was murdered by Caste Hindus for being in a relationship with a woman from the community. Police, however, have termed the death a suicide.
Refusing to accept the body of the deceased, the relatives have demanded the police to register a case under 302 (murder) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (prevention of atrocities) Act and arrest the accused persons.
The deceased, S Suresh Kumar, a B.Com graduate, who was a resident of Thovalai Pudur, was working as a painting contractor. He was found in critical condition a few yards away from the woman’s house at Kattuputhoor in the city outskirts on Sunday and was later declared dead by doctors at a government hospital in Asaripallam.
S Suman Anand, brother of the deceased, said Suresh was in a relationship with a Caste Hindu woman from Kattuputhoor village for the past eight years. The couple had met during their undergraduate program.
“In September, my brother along with a friend had approached the woman’s family to seek permission to marry her as her family had already decided to fix her marriage. Even though her family did not respond immediately, they invited us to the house of an advocate belonging to their community to discuss the issue. On September 18, four members from each family gathered at the advocate’s house,” he said.
Anand said, during the meeting, the woman’s brothers warned Suresh of dire consequences if he didn’t end the relationship with their sister.
V Radhika, another relative of Suresh said, following the threats, his family had advised him to not continue the relationship with the woman and that he was depressed for almost a month before returning to work.
“A day before his death, the woman’s relative had met him in the locality and threatened to murder both of them if they were seen together. Later that day, he was found crying before his mother. On Sunday morning, the woman’s brother along with a police official had visited our house and asked Suresh to visit Boothapandi police station immediately. Even during the visit, her brothers had threatened us,” Radhika.
She said Suresh had the woman’s original documents (identity proof) with him and had left the house to hand it over to the police. The couple reportedly had kept their documents ready to use them to register their marriage if their families do not support them.
“As he did not return till the evening, we went to the police station looking for him, but officials said he never came. Later, we decided to visit the woman’s house. But a few yards before her house we found Suresh’s motorbike and on a nearby patch of land saw him struggling for life. We immediately took him to private hospitals but they refused to treat him. So, we took him to the government hospital where doctors declared him dead,” she said.
Further, Revathi said that she was also attacked by the men in the woman’s family when she visited them later that day. “We filed a complaint with police on Suresh’s death and the attack on me. But the police refused to file a FIR on both the complaints,” she said.
Suman Anand said that even though wounds were found on various parts of his brother’s body, police claimed he had committed suicide by consuming poison and that they have found a bottle of poison in his belongings.
“But why should he commit suicide near the woman’s house after he decided to return all her documents and end the relationship with her? After all, he was the boldest person in our family,” he said.
He said that despite several requests, police have refused to file a case of murder and are forcing them to receive the body. He added that they will not accept the body until police take immediate steps to nab the culprits.
When contacted, Kanyakumari SP V Badri Narayanan said, “The postmortem was conducted in front of the family members and doctors had told us that the deceased had died due to consumption of poison. So, we have filed a case under section 174 (unnatural death) of IPC. But, we are further investigating the case. Based on the outcome of the investigation, the sections might be altered.”
Honour killings in India: Tamilnadu un- and under-reported
Graphic from Times of India, Sep 22, 2018.
The above graphic lists many incidents, but none from Tamilnadu. Mainstream media (MSM) of Tamilnadu does not generally cover such news; rather they suppress it. It is the same across the country, but Tamilnadu beats them all. We are told the state has a modern administration, efficient police, and high connectivity and high literacy (80 percent plus as per 2011 census, compared to India’s 74. It is expected to reach 90 by 2021 Census. Female literacy is also similarly higher.) In spite of all this – rather, with all this- it tops in ‘Honour killings’, i.e., in the land of ‘self-respect movement.’ The media has been, for decades, controlled and led by Dravidian ruling parties, and they are efficient in cover up.
See the following reports:
We know of Love Jihad (Love and marriages involving muslims and others) alleged by Sangh parivar ; the liberal media has some discussion on it. We know of such killings from the Jat land, we know of their Khap panchayats (Kangaroo courts). But we know little of Katta panchayats, their Tamilnadu variant.
Such cases have become routine in Tamilnadu, which has its own variant of love jihad, involving dalits in the inter-caste marriages.
A leading party, PMK has the temerity to openly demand a ban on such marriages, between dalits and Vanniars! It goes against civility, not to speak of the Indian Constitution. And PMK has been admitted into alliances by both DMK and ADMK, was part of UPA and NDA, and had representation in Union cabinet, not to speak of state cabinets. And it is not questioned in the Indian media.
Says a report:
“The Vanniyar Sangam, a powerful dominant caste outfit in Tamil Nadu, issued a legal notice to the makers and producers of Jai Bhim. The film is an Amazon Prime release about custodial violence against members of an Adivasi community. The Vanniyar Sangam is the parent organization of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a political party in Tamil Nadu known for its anti-Dalit stance.”
An allied “educated” youth are engaged in a brazen campaign, in the land of Periyar. Both PMK and these youth claim to be votaries of Periyar.
See : Educated Caste Hindu Youth Campaign Against Inter Caste Marriages, Namakkal, July, 16, 2012, The Hindu.
Tamilnadu is notorious for killing dalits, but has no such stigma, thanks to the media:
It has come to light that 300 Dalits were murdered in Tamil Nadu between 2016 and 2020, and only in 13 cases were sentences pronounced, reported N Vinoth Kumar, in thefederal.com, 27 September, 2021.
MSM, more so of Tamilnadu, does not care to follow up such reports; in fact they effectively suppress them all. Votaries of ‘self-respect movement’ are silent, nay complicit, about it all.
Any perceived injustice or violation in neighboring Srilanka is widely reported in Tamilnadu: Political forces, ruling and opposition, small and big, and media go all out to report them. But they are highly muted when it comes to violence against dalits, most of it committed by OBCs, and ‘lower’ communities.
See how figures are misleading, concealing than revealing:
Graphic from Times of India, Sep 22, 2018.
The figures above are gross under-estimates, no doubt; they are of only reported cases. Note Tamilnadu does not figure in the illustration, as also in related reports, official as well as unofficial:
356 cases were reported from across India in three years, between 2014 and 2016: 28 were killed in 2014; 251 in 2015, and 77 in 2016. (Times of India, Sep 22, 2018.)
Figures for next three years are as follow:
PTI reported, 2021 Aug 11: Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra told parliament 145 incidents of “honour killing” for inter caste and inter-religious marriages have been reported in various parts of the country between 2017 and 2019: 92 in 2017, 29 in 2018 and 24 in 2019.
250 cases, the highest in an year, were in 2015 alone; they were cases reported. There is no reason to believe that they were as low as 29 or 24 in other years; only they were unreported. It is well known that local communities ensure that such incidents are not reported.
The highest, 50 honour killings, have taken place in Jharkhand between 2017 and 2019, 19 in Maharashtra and 14 in Uttar Pradesh, he said. That is between 2017 and 2019, 145 incidents of “honour killing” for inter caste and inter-religious marriages have been reported in various parts of the country. He apparently makes no reference to Tamilnadu, which had them in large numbers:
Says a recent (February 24, 2021) article with good research:
“ The Indian government did not record honor killings until 2014. Due to a lack of specific honor violence laws, the killings were often reported as homicides or suicides. For example, India’s Supreme Court recorded 288 honor killings in India between 2014 and 2016. However, Evidence, a non-government organization, found that between 2012 and 2017 there were 187 cases in the state of Tamil Nadu alone. This misinformation leads the government to believe that honor killings are under control, making them reluctant to pass new laws to address the problem. Federal government initiatives meant to protect at-risk couples from honor killings are nonexistent or ineffective. In 2018, the Supreme Court moved to create call centers for at-risk couples. However, the government assigned no budget or personnel to these call centers.”
The crime is widespread as can be seen by this:
“Indian Government-operated shelters for at-risk couples are sparse and feature unlivable conditions. In response to this, the nonprofit organization, Love Commandos, runs more than 500 shelters across India. In addition to offering protection from honor violence, the Love Commandos help at-risk couples apply for restraining orders and marriage licenses. The latter is important because an unmarried woman’s parents can overrule decisions she has made. If a couple decides to elope, the parents can charge the male with kidnapping and the police will bring the woman back to her parents, regardless of her age.”
“ In February 2017, Kadhal Aran, a free smartphone app that helps couples at risk of honor killings, was launched in Tamil Nadu. After users describe their problems over the app, Kadhal Aran’s volunteers provide emotional and other support… With volunteers in every district of Tamil Nadu and with most Indians owning a smartphone, Kadhal Aran can reach many couples…
Dhanak of Humanity is a nationwide support group that consists of inter-caste and inter-faith couples… it operates a resource center that aggregates research and data about marriages across India. As of 2021, the organization has helped more than 1,300 couples.
(A Closer Look at Honor Killings in India, February 24, 2021, borgenmagazine.com.)
Another paper says:
“ As per the National Crime Records Bureau, Data 2015 India reported 251 honour killings in 2015, showing a significant rise in killings of people who feel that they are acting in defence of the integrity of their families. The state reported 34 honour killings between 2008 and 2010. There was a rising case of honour killing in India more than 300 cases reported from the last three years. Honour killings have been mostly reported in northern regions of India, mainly in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh as a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion. Honour killings are also widespread in South India and the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.”
It is argued by the culprits that they are opposing marriages within the same gotra, as if it justifies the crime. “The apex court noticed out here that gotra was linked to 3% of honour killings. For faith and other motives is the cause behind the remaining 97%.”
(by Parul Chaturvedi, from Dr RML Law College, Bangalore.)
Then there are other estimates:
“ More than a hundred cases of honour killings reported in the last two years, a separate legislation for honour killings is the need of the hour to protect the socially marginalised sections,” Intellectual Circle for Dalit Action(ICDA) said in a statement, The Hindu reported on 06 July 2015. Full Text of the statement was published by roundtableindia.co.in/ on 06 July 2015. It was issued when 23-year-old Dalit youth Gokul Raj of Omalur (who had a relationship with one Swathi) became a victim of cold- blooded caste-honour killing, and a Fact Finding Committee of several academics, on July 4 and 5, toured places and went into the case.
The ICDA team included C. Lakshmanan, Assistant Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Stalin Rajangam, Dalit writer based in Madurai, J. Balasubramaniam, Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism and Science Communication, Madurai Kamaraj University; Anbu Selvam, independent researcher, Puducherry, A. Jaganathan, PhD scholar, Guru Nanak Study Centre, Madurai Kamaraj University and Karthikeyan Damodaran, Researcher, School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh.
ICDA says there is an open campaign by a caste mafia group led by one Yuvaraj:
“ The role of prime accused Yuvaraj, has been downplayed; enough evidence proves that he was involved in moral policing, and was also part of a campaign against inter-caste marriages to prevent girls from his community of Kongu Vellala Gounders marrying boys of other castes, particularly Dalits. This helped him gain access to his community students in various colleges within the Kongu region (see: Educated Caste Hindu Youth Campaign Against Inter Caste Marriages, Namakkal, July, 16, 2012, The Hindu). By doing so, he built a network and solicited information about relationships if any between dalit boys and Kongu Vellala girls. As a person who reflected the caste majoritarian psyche in this region, Yuvaraj gained acceptance as a caste mafia and someone who could keep their caste pride intact…”
“ All these details about Yuvaraj are very much available in the public domain; despite this the Tiruchengode police have been investigating the matter in a sloppy way by detaching this information and past history about Yuvaraj. By not taking into cognisance his background and facts to investigate this heinous crime may set a dangerous precedent…”
Brazen Caste Mafia in Tamilnadu, the land of Periyar
The caste mafia is brazen in its ways, goes about with impunity, and the State of Tamilnadu, the Dravidian parties, as also those who swear by Periyar, wink at it, as can be seen by the following excerpts from a recent write-up related to the film Jai Bhim:
“In 2012, for instance, a mob of over a thousand Vanniyar men violently ransacked Dalit property worth 7 crores. The late leader, J Guru, allegedly called upon the community to “chop off the limbs” of anyone who falls in love with Vanniyar women; accordingly, an inter-caste marriage between a Vanniyar woman and a Dalit man was what allegedly drove the violence.
“ In the same year, a former member of the PMK was also allegedly involved in the murder of the Joint District Secretary of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), formerly called the Dalit Panthers of India. More recently, Dalit organizations stated that violence against Dalit and Adivasi people increased five-fold during lockdown, and the Vanniyar community was often behind instigating isolated incidents of violence…”
(It is alleged that the culprits in the film were shown as Vanniars, and the cruel SI was named Gurumurty, alluding to the leader (J. Guru 1961-2018, twice elected MLA and a founder of Vanniar sangham) mentioned above. The film-makers denied it, and said they made some change in the film to remove any such feelings. Surya pointed out that BJP contended that Guru in fact referred to a leader of the sangh parivar. )
(The Outrage Towards ‘Jai Bhim’ Shows Why It’s Important To Tell Uncomfortable Stories
By Rohitha Naraharisetty, Nov 18, 2021)
The saddest part of the story is the complicity of the state in these unabated killings of dalits in Tamilnadu. Anand Teltumbde wrote a decade ago in 2011:
“Again the partisan role of the state is not a new thing in India in the conflicts between Dalits and non-Dalits, it has always sided by the perpetrators of crimes overtly or covertly, but the state committing a deliberate crime of doing Dalits to death in execution of a political plan of a ruling party in a blatant manner, is surely a rare occurrence, which deserved to be exposed to the wider public…”
That was rare then, a decade ago, but no more. See the article Killing Pallars To Propitiate Thevars by Dr. Anand Teltumbde, published in countercurrents.org, 30 October, 2011. Incidentally, Thevars( Devara) in Tamil means gods, besides being the name of an influential community there.
(Part-2 will include politics of murder of dalits in the state.)
(The writer was a media person who frequently contributed articles to countercurrents.org. )