The Western region of Tamil Nadu, which is otherwise known for its industrial spirit and entrepreneurship, seems to now slowly be becoming infamous, due to this part of the State witnessing over the years a rise in cases of honour killing, so much so that it has been referred to as the ‘honour killing capital’ of the State.
“The Western region [in Tamil Nadu] has disturbingly been gaining notoriety for honour-related crimes. Of the 185 incidents, as many as 50 of the murders were reported from Kongu region-mainly from Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Salem and Namakkal districts. It may not be an exaggeration to call this region as the honour killing capital of Tamil Nadu,” said A Kathir, managing director of Evidence, an NGO.
Activists say only crimes of such sheer brutality hog the limelight, while others go either unreported or covered up under the pretext of suicide or gender violence.
“On an average, around 3,500 women commit suicide annually in Tamil Nadu. The police close these cases by citing reasons such as stomach pain, love failure or other minor reasons. In a disturbing reality, many young women who fall in love with people outside their caste, end their lives unable to cope up with family pressure and discrimination, but the case gets closed citing other reasons,” said Kathir. While mentioning that about 17 per cent of such suicide cases is over love affair, Kathir added, “There is every possibility of honour killings being passed off as suicide. Also, the suicide of such young women has been more in Coimbatore and Erode districts, where the society is deep-rooted in caste”.
Though honour killing incidents are on the rise, only a few cases have ended up in conviction in the State due to the involvement of family members.
Although the grit and determination of a few caste crusaders like Kausalya, who fought all the way to court to ensure that six persons-including her father-was served the death sentence in the sensational murder of Dalit youth Shankar in Udumalpet in 2016, families of victims in many other honour killings, however, are still awaiting justice due to long court trials. Two such cases, which shook the conscience of people and are now pending justice, are the reported murders of Gokul Raj and Ilavarasan.
Gokul Raj, who fell in love with a girl from another community, was reportedly murdered and his body was abandoned near the railway track at East Thottipalayam near Pallipalayam in Tiruchengode in 2015.
In an attempt to cover up incidents of honour killing, the Tamil Nadu government continues to dismiss such cases and is one among the few States that haven’t submitted a report to the Supreme Court. “As many as 22 States have given details on honour killings to the apex court,” Kathir said.
It can’t be ruled out that caste outfits too play an active role in keeping the flame of casteist prejudices high in intensity for their own selfish reasons.
“Though incidents of honour killings have been prevalent for long, the culture of mob violence and daring murders in full public view has been sowed by caste-based outfits that are growing in popularity. Those who unleash violence for the sake of community tend to enjoy the backing of such outfits,” said R Athiyamaan, founder president of Adhi Tamizhar Peravai.