‘Be strong to shun caste and stand by your choice of partner’

March 13, 2021 marks five years since Shankar was murdered. What happened on that day remains vivid in my mind even today. It was something we had never foreseen. As a couple, we had a lot of dreams about our future.
‘Be strong to shun caste and stand by your choice of partner’

Chennai

Shankar wanted me to live in a better house with more comfort. During rainy nights, inside our hut, rainwater would drip through the roof. I would place my head on his lap, he would cover me with a bedsheet and put me to sleep. 
For the sake of my happiness, he was willing to give up on his own personal preferences. He cared for me like a mother would care for her child. And he died right before my eyes, writhing in agony. My parents could not accept Shankar for who he was. The one and only reservation that they had against him was his caste. 
I was very clear that if caste came in the way of my love for Shankar, it was caste that had to be thrown away, and not my love for him. I was determined to take on the malice of groups advocating casteist discrimination and who asked me to part ways with Shankar. Ultimately, I had broken free from the shackles of my parents, who had until then meant everything to me. What I thought I had also broken from was their caste-based fanaticism. From the moment that I left my parents, Shankar had become the world to me. But our happiness was very short-lived. My world came tumbling down when Shankar and I were mercilessly assaulted that fateful day. Even as he lay in a pool of blood, until the very last moment, I prayed for a miracle that he would survive. I was also assaulted severely and there was a possibility that even I might have succumbed. But that was not to be. Shankar succumbed to the grievous injuries.
I might have had an entire life ahead of me, but without him, I had no desire to live and I had no plans for the future. With the passage of time, I began a slow process of recovery. 
The support of thousands of well-wishers from across the state and beyond, who embodied the ideals of great thinkers such as Periyar gave me the impetus to rise up. I then decided that I would pledge my life towards working for the eradication of casteist violence that had taken Shankar’s life. I vowed to dedicate my efforts for the enactment of a special legislation against caste-linked murders. 
Shankar paid with his life, only because of his love for me. I decided that it was my duty to protect such individuals who were hounded by extremists. Putting an end to caste-based discrimination and such violence has now become the purpose of my life. The moment I resolved to fight against castebased discrimination that dehumanises human beings, I grew new wings. It gave me the confidence and courage to fly higher and actually help make a difference to the lives of others. Having the goal of eradicating caste-based violence is the reason for me blossoming into a new woman. I intend to work towards this with every inch of my being. And I will not be cowered down. I will rise boldly against this evil in any field or forum. I must also reiterate that Women’s History Month is not just another occasion to celebrate womanhood. This is also the time for women to take a pledge to fight for their rights in a full-fledged manner. 
Even to this day, millions of women in India do not have the freedom to love and marry a person of their own choice. It is the notion of caste attached to the names of one’s parents, that determines whom one should love and whom one should marry. Each and every woman and man should have the courage to set caste aside and marry an individual of her own choice. Women should develop the confidence and ensure that at no point of time are they subjugated to men. Honour killings are crimes born of casteism, which not only denies women the freedom of love, but denies them the right to a life of dignity, as seen in instances where parents have not shied from killing their own children. If any woman chooses to stand by her choice, and protect her freedom and her love, which is a natural human instinct, and save her soul and life, she must raise her voice for the passing of a special legislation against castebased “honour killings.”

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