Shankar, 22, was hacked to death in Tamil Nadu by a gang of men including his wife’s father, because they did not approve of him marrying above his caste.
Six men have been sentenced to death in India for the “honour” killing of a Dalit man who had married a woman from a higher caste.
Among those sentenced was the woman’s father. A seventh man was sentenced to life in prison and another man was given five years at the hearing in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. The convictions were the toughest recorded for such a killing
Shankar, 22, was hacked to death by… a gang on bikes in March 2016, eight months after he married Kausalya, 21, a member of the Thevar caste, a dominant one in Tamil Nadu.
Kausalya sustained head injuries but survived the attack as she managed to shelter under a parked car.
Eleven people were charged over the attack, which was captured on a CCTV camera mounted in a nearby shop, including Kausalya’s father Chinnasamy, her mother Annalakshmi, her uncle Pandidurai and a 16-year-old relative.
The couple, both students at an engineering college near Pollachi, and both in their 20s, married in July 2015, against the wishes of Kausalya’s parents. After the wedding they went straight to a police station and lodged a complaint that they feared for their lives.
“It is satisfying that the trial concluded speedily,” said V Suresh, national general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, India’s largest civil and human rights body.
“The clear finding given that it was an ‘honour’ killing, meant to avenge a sense of insult caused by a Dalit for daring to marry an ‘upper caste’ girl, will act as a deterrent for future misadventure on the part of caste supremacists.”
He added that the sheer brutality of the case, which made headlines around the world, meant that death sentences were inevitable.
He said there was concern over an increase in incidents of hate crime and “honour” killing, “which are reflective of current societal standards of caste discrimination and animosity, the failure of the state to bring about a change in mindset amongst all sections of the people to accept egalitarian values, principles of equity and to work towards a casteless society”.
While rare for a daughter to testify against her parents, Kausalya was the key witness in the trial.
Kausalya’s mother, uncle Pandidurai and the young relative were acquitted due to lack of evidence. Following the verdict, Kausalya said she would appeal against the acquittal of her relatives, adding: “I will also continue my fight for a separate law to deal with cases of ‘honour’ killing. Only then will my Shankar get justice.”
“It is a satisfactory verdict,” said P Wilson, a senior lawyer and former additional solicitor general of India. “Under the guise of ‘honour’ killing, caste is promoted and perpetrated. Intercaste marriages are on the rise now and the police have been directed by the then chief justice of the Madras high court Sanjay Kishan Kaul in 2016 to form special units in all districts headed by the superintendent of police to take up cases of ‘honour’ killing on priority.
“The court had also issued directions to the government of India to bring in laws to curb ‘honour’ killings. It is a welcome judgment. When the law permits two adults to marry, and they do marry, then why should the parents or anyone come into the picture and resort to violence and murder?”
Up to 6% of attacks on Dalits in India take place in Tamil Nadu state, according to figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau. In 2016, 1,291 such cases were reported in the state.
According to Indian law, the Madras high court has to ratify the death sentence, following which appeals are available to the convicts.