Kausalya’s courageous fight for justice | Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Radical Humanist, political analyst and human rights activist
The Tirupur Principal District and Sessions Judge Alamelu Natarajan yesterday announced death penalty for six accused convicted in V Shankar murder case last year in Coimbatore. This include her father and other conspirators but her mother and distant uncle has been acquitted. It was perhaps the first cases where the judge has handed out six persons the capital punishment in an ‘honored killing’ case and if the upper courts approve this then will definitely send a strong message across the country. Ofcourse, people like us have opposed the death penalty and would focus more on societal changes yet it is important that such messages should go to people who commit such heinous crimes. The important point is that 20 years old Kausalya who is now fighting to get justice for this brutal murder of her husband from her parents and their accomplices, has decided that she would fight against the acquittal of her mother and uncles who too should have been given sentences by the court.
It was a case of dishonored killing as Kausalya’s parents objected to her relationship with Shankar, a young engineer belonging to Dalit community. It was known to her family that both Shankar and Kausalya have been living as married for 8 months prior to the attack on them. The efforts to separate them failed then the entire conspiracy to eliminate them was hatched by her family.
Tamilnadu is the land of Periyar and self respect movement but today we dont even find the shadow of that self respect. The entire Dravidian identity issue evaporate when there are inter caste intermingling and affairs. The violence against Dalits in the name of ‘honor’ has been reported widely in the media of Tamilnadu. After the demise of Periyar, we have not found the political class speaking up so eloquently and strongly against caste atrocities and varna system in Tamilnadu. The compromises of the Dravidian parties have really diluted the anti caste progressive agenda in Tamilnadu. It is not for some other reasons that a community like Devendra Kuru Vellalar want to get delisted from Scheduled caste category and be included into the OBCs.
Why has the situation come to this point when the most powerful communities in Tamilnadu want to dissociate with the Dalits ? If any association with Dalit stigmatise the people and isolate them further then it is the biggest failure of the Dravidian movement, which all of us, who think radical and loved Periyar. As newspapers have reported from Kausalya’s family the ‘pride’ that they belonged to a higher community and how could she marry to a ‘lower caste’ boy. Now the family suggest that they should have taught her the ‘importance’ of caste and remaining inside the ‘boundaries’ as described. It is sad that the parents did not have remorse of killing the love of their daughter. Her father was a taxi driver who tried to scuttle the marriage with Shankar by offering him ten lakh rupees and get lost from the life of his daughter. These are the parents who have become so conscious of their caste identities that they are ready to butcher their children for their fake pride. Periyar spoke against brahmanism and he did not confine himself to just condemning the brahmins but provided an alternative. His self respect marriages were nothing but a revolution but then subsequently we saw the absolute degradation of Dravidian parties and most of them started finding ‘power’ in caste identities resulting in complete isolation of communities from each other. I did not see any attempt by the Dravidian parties to fight against this social evil. In fact, the Hindutva protagonists are working underground among communities waiting for these differences to escalate. Many of our friends says that Hindutva will have no place in Kerala, Andhra, Telangana, Tamilnadu as these are ‘radical’ areas but they forget that using caste contradiction is the best guarantee for the growth of the brahmanical forces and mind you it is not necessary for them to be present at every level. Now the situation has arrived when brahmanism will be enforced more by those who are its worst victims. So, whether BJP or Hindutva is directly present or not, the caste contradictions and emphasis on religion will ultimately dilute and finish the great legacy of Dravidian movement. We have not seen any anti caste movement from the side of Dravidian parties and no fight against untouchability.
In the din of the failure of political parties, isn’t it time to strengthen Ambedkarite movement in Tamilnadu. Kausalya is just 20 years old and the amount of maturity and commitment that she has shown in getting justice for her husband Shankar, is remarkable. A girl who has persistently asked for death penalty for her parents and blamed them the real perpetrator of the criminal act of murdering her husband. A young girl who decided to leave her parents and stay with the parents of Shankar, her in laws and take care of them. This is what I call enormous strength of love that transcends the caste and religious boundaries. Yes, amidst all the pressure and personal grief, when a young person stand tall in terms of deep conviction then we need to stand with them.
Kausalya became an activist. She learn to play the traditional Parai drum of the community that Shankar belonged to and now speaking for annihilation of caste and has become a leading light of the movement against caste system in Tamilnadu. She inspire because in a number of cases where the parents of the powerful castes file cases of abduction against the boys who are are Dalits and later the girls have been forced to distract. In many cases, the parents get their daughters married elsewhere silently. This case is powerful because Kausalya’s enormous strength. Fighting against ‘enemy’ is easier than fighting against your owns as that gives tremendous pain. Kausalya left her parents and stayed with Shankar’s parents and took care of them and now decide to fight against her own parents for their crime is a thing to celebrate as for years we have been taught to consider your parents as ‘Gods’.. mata pita bhagwan hote hain. It does not mean that parents should not be respected but dont defend them for their indefensible acts. If they indulge in wrong doing, it is our duty to speak against that. The same is true about children too but as long as differences are democratic, things should be fine but as soon as violence, threat, intimidation enter into picture, it becomes criminal and must be resisted.
It need a lot of courage to be like Kausalya and it is not that easy. It is not that she did not have her personal moments of pains and depressions. We know it would have happened with her as every time she is compelled to remember that atrocious moment her life, things will haunt her. It is natural for all of us and perhaps for the sake of justice for Shankar, she continue to do that which is important.
Beyond this case, Kausalya can ignite the Ambedkarite anti caste movement in Tamilnadu which the dravidian movement failed to carry forward. It is not my contention to suggest that there are no people fighting against it but it is important that all the anti caste forces should join hand. The politics of social cultural hegemony must be fought with politics of equality. We need to understand that no ideology would flourish by merely chanting anti brahmanical rhetorics but more on their own action and how much have they gone ahead in bringing the communities together. Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Thanti Periyar did not just shouted slogans but provided democratic alternative to the people. It is time we stand up with those values and save our children. Kausalya symbolise the powerful voice against caste discrimination and must be supported in her struggle to bring awareness regarding the dangers of hate crime based on castes. For parents, it is important to understand that if they say, they love their children and want their children to be happier than why they oppose their choice of marriage ? Leave your caste rigidities otherwise you will only have to blame yourself if you lose your children. Dont give them your ‘caste gyan’ in the form of false pride and with perpetual hatred in heart towards others as that would only make the communities enslaved to the Manu’s order that thrived on such graded inequality as Baba Saheb Ambedkar pointed out. It is time to dismantle this caste order completely and perhaps it is only possible when come out of it, leave that false pride, believe in equality and follow the path shown by Dr Ambedkar. There is no other way to do so. We can only hope that Kausalya follow the path shown by Baba Saheb Ambedkar and become the leading light of anti caste movement in Tamilnadu. We salute her for the tremendous courage she has shown in her struggle and extend our solidarity with her fight for justice.