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Caste killed Ilavarasan

Caste killed Ilavarasan
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Nothing can be a better example than the purported suicide note left behind by a Dalit youth, E. Ilavarasan, 23, of Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu,...

Nothing can be a better example than the purported suicide note left behind by a Dalit youth, E. Ilavarasan, 23, of Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu, to establish increasing intolerance of inter-caste marriages in Indian society. In his suicide note, he prayed that he and Divya, 20, should be reborn in the same community so that they might happily become life partners with the blessings of their elders. His body was found on rail track in mysterious circumstances, raising suspicions.

"If Ilavarasan had jumped before a running Express train, as claimed by the authorities, his body would have been cut into pieces, which was not the case. Similarly, the train would have halted to clear the body, and the driver would have informed the railway authorities. But there has been no such report," maintained P.L Punia, chairman of the National Commission on Scheduled Castes. Ilavarasan, who married Divya, a Vanniyar girl, a year ago, committed suicide after his wife walked out of the marriage, ostensibly under pressure from caste outfits.

Divya had to take the decision following her father's suicide on November 7 last year. The outraged Vanniyar community went berserk thereafter. According to a report of a fact-finding committee, the girl belonged to Chellankottai near Naikankottai. She was studying for her B Sc (Nursing) Third Year in a Dharampuri college. Ilavarasan was from Natham, and had studied up to 10th standard and was reportedly just selected in the State police.

They had a relationship for some time but their parents feigned ignorance. When a proposal for Divya came from a boy of her own caste, who was employed with a salary of Rs 35,000 a month, Divya's parents wanted to accept it but Divya did not. She declined it saying she would not get married until she finished her education. The boy was prepared to wait. However, soon thereafter she and Ilavarasan secretly married around October 8. Although the girl's parents were not happy with the marriage as reportedly the boy did not have a good reputation, was not educated enough to be a match to Divya, did not have sound economic background, and was in the neighboring locality, they did seem to mind all that. Several inter-caste marriages had taken place in the village and had been accepted.

However, there was a caste meeting about a month before the marriage in which Kaduvetti J. Guru, a local MLA belonging to Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), allegedly said that inter-caste marriages should not be accepted and whosoever dared it should be killed. Also, the Vanniyars had been carrying out such a campaign. They called a Panchayat meeting on November 3 where some people gave an ultimatum to Dalits that they should restore the girl to her parents within two days; or else they would face dire consequences. The Dalits sought police protection, which was granted by posting some 20 policemen at the village on November 5.

On November 7, when Divya's father, Nagaraj, learnt of the girl's resolve not to come back, he committed suicide. Some people immediately used his dead body to mobilize Vanniyars to attack the three Dalit colonies, Natham, Anna Nagar and Konampatti. In tragic stories like this one, one must look at problem from parents' point of view also. Having brought children up till the age of 20 to 22 years, possessiveness of parents can be understood.

The TN government appointed a judicial commission to probe the death of Ilavarasan. But none of the mainstream Dravidian parties has spoken on the issue, though political parties, particularly those representing Dalits, such as Puthia Tamilgam and Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi have sought action against PMK. In fact, the PMK warned against love marriages and demanded abrogation of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. The social pressure was so high that Divya had to break the marriage unilaterally in the High Court without informing Ilavarasan. She told the Madras HC that she would not like to live with Ilavarasan anymore. It is reported that heartbroken Ilaverasan committed suicide after that.

Meanwhile, political parties are refraining from making any comment on the incident because no political party is prepared to face the wrath of people of Dharmpuri district, which has an equal number of votes of two warring communities, Vanniyars and Dalits, ahead of elections. Moreover, Dharmapuri is being represented by D.M.K M.P. Tamarai Selvan. Meanwhile, two postmortems have been conducted on Ilavarasan's body to find out whether the youth had committed suicide or had been murdered.

S V Suryaprakasa Rao

(The writer is a Chennai-based senior journalist)

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