As politicians squabble over Chennai Metro, caste atrocities continue unabated in Tamil Nadu

As politicians squabble over Chennai Metro, caste atrocities continue unabated in Tamil Nadu

All it took was a debatable “slap” by DMK treasurer MK Stalin on the Chennai Metro to evoke a sharp reaction from AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The reaction from the CM – she said Stalin’s behaviour was “unbecoming of an MLA” – came soon after the video showing Stalin tapping a fellow commuter became the talk of the town. And so it began.


Within hours, the leaders of long-time enemies, the DMK and AIADMK, lost no time in descending into a tug-of-war over who could claim more credit for the newest jewel in Tamil Nadu’s crown – the swanky Chennai Metro – for which official work began nine years ago. The two sides exchanged barbs with Jayalalithaa blaming Karunanidhi for signing pricy MoUs.


In sharp comparison, it has been over a week since the beheaded body of 21 year-old Dalit engineer, Gokulraj was found on the railway tracks at Thottipalayam in Namakkal district.


The death was initially passed off as a suicide because of a note found in his pocket. But further investigation revealed that he was murdered after being found talking to a female friend belonging to an upper caste community. They were found chatting at the Sri Arthanareeshwarar Temple in Tiruchengode on Tuesday morning. Video footage shows the gang taking the Dalit youth away from the temple after he spoke to the girl.


Initially registered as suspicious death, the police registered a murder case only after the autopsy was conducted. Six people have been arrested, with a look-out for the main suspect in the murder.


But this appears to be part of a pattern. The death of Gokulraj is but one incident in a string of caste-related murders. Exactly two years ago on July 4 , a Dalit youth Ilavarasan’s body was found . Though officially reported as a case of suicide, his death came after continued caste violence. After he eloped and married Divya, a girl of the Vanniyar caste, riots ensued against the Dalit community in which over 260 homes were burnt or damaged. 


According to Evidence, a Madurai-based human rights organisation, there have been 60 instances of honour killings in the last three years.


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