Yet another honour killing has rocked the Kongu region of Tamil Nadu, which comprises Coimbatore. Varshini Priya (17) and Kanagaraj (22), an inter-caste couple, were attacked in Mettupalayam on Tuesday. While Kanagaraj died on the spot, Priya succumbed to injuries on Saturday.
Kanagaraj’s brother, Vinoth, who was opposed to his brother’s choice of a Dalit girl, was the perpetrator. Although his family was opposed to the union initially, they had come around later, except for Vinoth.
Despite being considered a cosmopolitan city, Coimbatore, and its nearby regions, Tiruppur and Erode, are gaining infamy for caste crimes.
On the same day that Kanagaraj and Priya were attacked, the headmistress of a government school in the city was suspended after being accused of hurling casteist abuses on a student.
In 2017, the then Vice-Chancellor of Bharathiar University, A Ganapathy was booked under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 2015, for refusing a post-doctoral fellowship to a woman allegedly on caste grounds.
In 2014, reports revealed that tea shops in Madurai and Coimbatore district were serving tea in separate tumblers, reviving memories of the untouchability system that prevailed once upon a time in these parts.
In 2004, dalits in Kalapatti village were attacked by a dominant caste community for reasons like celebrating Dr Ambedkar Jayanthi, sharing a seat in the same auto.
According to Kathir, founder of human rights organisation Evidence, the district should be named ‘caste atrocities-prone zone’ or ‘honour killing prone zone’.
“Only then will the government set up special courts to hear such cases,” he said.
Claiming that around 80 per cent of women who those killed in honour killing cases were non-dalits and over 70 per cent of men were dalits, Kathir said the rate of rising instances of honour killings in the state is alarming.
“In the last five years, around 185 caste-based honour killings have happened. We need a special act to prevent them,” he said.
In 2011, the National Law Commission drafted The Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill. But it was not tabled in Parliament, Kathir pointed out.
The Supreme Court had then asked for a status report on honour killings from states. While 22 promised to submit their reports, Tamil Nadu has been silent so far.
“Political parties and MPs from the region should raise the issue in Parliament. Only then can we have some special laws to prevent honour killings,” Kathir demanded.
Pandian, director of Social Awareness Society for Youths, said Coimbatore, Erode and Tirupur districts have a high record of untouchability.
“Government officials have a flawed view of SC/ST Act. They think that the law should be used after the crime has happened. But the law itself is called as ‘Prevention of Atrocities’ Act. The officials should take preventive measures so that crimes against dalits will not happen. Unless otherwise, the officials understanding of the law changes, nothing is going to change,” he said.
Recent caste atrocities in Coimbatore: