Rajalakshmi murder: TN must address caste violence

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 02, 2018 12:17 hrs
Death penalty

A 13-year-old child was beheaded by a 27-year-old man on October 22. The murderer Dinesh Kumar was so convinced his actions were justified that he left a witness – the girl’s own mother – behind.

The mother said he used casteist abuse on her and her daughter, cut off the child’s head with a sickle, and took it home like a trophy. His wife apparently convinced him to “dispose” of the head and surrender to the police, even as the child’s mother was left with the corpse.

The police have booked the man under several sections of the Indian Penal Code: 294 (b) for using obscene words, 302 for murder, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the POCSO Act.

Yet, it took days for the media to report that a man who had made sexual advances on a 13-year-old had killed her for spurning him and telling her mother about it.

This is the fourth high profile case involving caste and unnatural death in Tamil Nadu.

All four victims were Dalit.

In two of those cases, Divya-Ilavarasan and Kausalya-Sankar, the victims were men married to women of “higher” castes.

In one of those cases, Gokulraj was found dead days after speaking to a woman from a “higher” caste.

And in one of those cases, the victim was a child who refused to be sexually abused by a man from a “higher” caste.

Dinesh Kumar is father to a daughter. If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it is that it means nothing – a perpetrator of sexual harassment could target a woman as old as, or even younger than, his daughter without thinking for a moment that his daughter could similarly be targeted by someone else, without thinking for a moment that the girl might as well have been his daughter.

If crime in Tamil Nadu has taught us anything, it is that caste means everything.

In each of the four cases I have mentioned, the “dominant caste” in question was different. The outcome was the same – death for the Dalit.

On July 4, 2013, Ilavarasan’s body was found by the railway tracks in Dharmapuri. Weeks earlier, he had married Divya, a girl belonging to the Vanniyar caste. A panchayat ordered the marriage dissolved, but Divya refused to relent. That evening, her father committed suicide. The next day, riots broke out, and tens of Dalit homes were set on fire.

Ilavarasan’s death was ruled suicide, and police said he was hit by a train. His lawyer told the media that the railways declared there was no accident involving any of their trains passing through Dharmapuri on the date of his death.

Gokulraj was last seen alive on June 24, 2015, when he was allegedly dragged away by three men when he was talking to a woman. His beheaded body was found three days later, by the railway tracks near Erode.

A suicide note was circulated on social media, along with a video where Gokulraj said he was killing himself over heartbreak.

Police suspected foul play.

The prime suspect Yuvaraj, leader of the Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai, surrendered to the police after three months in hiding. During his time in “hiding”, he released several audio clips to the media saying he was innocent, took part in a television debate, and was interviewed by Tamil news channels.

There was another twist. Tiruchengode DSP Vishnu Priya, who was investigating the case, committed suicide on September 28, 2015.

The trial in the murder case has only just begun.

On March 13, 2016, Sankar was hacked to death by several men in the presence of his wife Kausalya, at Udumalaipettai. The murder was caught on video.

Kausalya alleged that the killers had been hired by her father Chinnasamy, and appeared as a witness in court. On December 12, 2017, her father and several others were sentenced to death, while her mother, uncle, and another relative were acquitted.

Tamil Nadu is often spoken of as a state where the anti-caste movement was strong.

Since the inception of the Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944, Brahminical hegemony has been challenged and tackled in the state.

But caste atrocities perpetrated against Dalits by members of other dominant castes don’t seem to get much attention. Castes which have the numbers that could affect voting patterns have been constantly wooed through political speeches as well as cinema, which has given Tamil Nadu most of its chief ministers.

It is about time the state addressed caste-based violence.

And it is about time the media gave it the attention it deserves. If only four cases made it to the headlines, one wonders how many others are buried away.

More Columns by Nandini Krishnan:

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Women will drive Ayyappa away, but not violence?

India's #MeToo: A moment of reckoning

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V S Naipaul: The man the world loved to hate

The legacy of Karunanidhi

"Rapistan": There are no safe places

The "most dangerous country" poll should not make us defensive

The illusion of secularism

When hooliganism is state-sanctioned

Tarun Tejpal case: When the media plays jury

Karnataka: Death of democracy

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Tamil Nadu: The land of the lawless

When death does not deter

Power play at a time of crisis

A country in denial

The gods have left the temples

What cricketers' reactions to ball-tampering show

Even Chhota Bheem knows our data was never private

No Confidence Motion: Why is the BJP nervous?

Do we really have the right to die with dignity?

Democracy has no place for mobs

The Sridevi South India lost 


Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. 

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