Late last night Varshini Priya succumbed to her injuries
Late last night Varshini Priya succumbed to her injuries

Love, Caste & Murder In Coimbatore

A young couple was hacked by the groom’s elder brother simply because the bride was Dalit

A Joseph

A Joseph

The young woman who was grievously attacked by her lover’s brother succumbed to her injuries in the wee hours of June 29.

Varishini Priya, 16, who had been fighting for her life since June 22, passed away at the Coimbatore Government General Hospital. Her husband Kanagaraj was killed on the spot in the attack which took place on June 22.

On the morning of June 25, Varshini Priya Chinrasu, 16, and Kanagaraj Karuppasamy, 22, got married. They had been in love for four years and they had been waiting for this moment.

As they were returning to Varshini’s grandmother’s home in Sree Rangarayan Odai in Mettupalayam, Coimbatore, they met with violence.

Kanagaraj’s elder brother Vinod Kumar, 24, assaulted the young couple on Sirumugai Road on the way. He was carrying with him an ‘arival’ or a machete. He hacked at the couple in rage, killing his younger brother on the spot and grievously injuring the young Varshini.

The reason for this violence was caste hatred. Kanagaraj was born into a dominant caste called Valaiyar, denominated as a Most Backward Class (MBC) by the Tamil Nadu government.

Varshini Priya was born into the Sakkiliyar caste which falls under the Arunthathiyar sub-caste, denoted as Scheduled Caste by the state.

Three Months Ago

Both Kanagaraj and Varshini Priya belonged to the same village of Sree Rangarayan Odai in Mettupalayam. Scheduled Caste families live in a separate street of the village as is the norm in rural Tamil Nadu.

Ironically though, both families are similar in terms of economic status. Kanagaraj’s mother and father are daily wage labourers as is Varshini’s father Chinrasu who loads produce onto trucks in the Mettupalayam market. Varshini’s mother Amuthavalli is a sweeper on contract with the Mettupalayam municipality.

Kanagaraj and Varshini’s families lived a street away from each other.

For the past three months, Varshini Priya had been living with her grandmother, a stone’s throw from her parents’ house.

This was because Kanagaraj’s family had found out about the couple being in love and was not happy with their son wanting to marry a Dalit girl.

Kanagaraj’s family had fought many times with Varshini’s family and even threatened them with dire consequences. “They had warned us that if our girl continues to speak to Kanagaraj, then they will hack them,” said Amuthavalli Chinrasu, mother of Varshini Priya. Fearing for their daughter, Amuthavalli and Chinrasu sent her to live with her grandmother.

But the couple continued to meet in secret.

“Last month I had come to Mettupalayam,” said Patteeswaran, Varshini Priya’s uncle. “I saw them speaking to each other outside a temple. Then one day Varshini was missing by around 3 am. Her family went in search of her but could not find her. I finally found them both near the forests. They told me they were in love. I said being in love is fine but talking on the roads and in the forests is not right. I sent the boy away and dropped the girl back at her grandmother’s house. After that I went out of town. I came back when I heard that the brother of the boy had killed the boy and hacked my niece on the side of the head,” he said.

The attack on the couple took place at 5.30 pm on June 25.

“I was at work when my wife called me and said there is a problem,” Chinrasu, Varshini Priya’s father. “So I went there. I found the boy was dead. My girl was alive. I picked her up and she was bleeding. I realised she was badly injured. I took her to the Mettupalayam GH (Government Hospital) in an autorickshaw because I could not get an ambulance. They told me they cannot do anything so I brought her to Coimbatore GH.”

“They were both in love. We are from the Sakkiliyar community (Arunthathiyar). They are Valaiyar (MBC). That was the problem. His brother hacked them,” said Chinrasu, seemingly unable to comprehend the violence.

Vinod Kumar attacked the young couple with a machete
Vinod Kumar attacked the young couple with a machete

Vinod Kumar surrendered before the Mettupalayam police station on the morning of June 26.

An SP Who Brooks No Casteism

Coimbatore Superintendent of Police Sujith Kumar paid a field visit on the evening of June 25 and also on the morning of June 26 concerning this case.

Three days earlier in Periyanaickenpalayam, a couple in love was talking to each other when they were seen by head constable of the area Suresh.

Suresh had allegedly threatened the couple and asked for a bribe of Rs 10,000.

The couple came to the SP’s office and lodged a complaint regarding the same.

SP Sujith Kumar entrusted the task of inquiring into the veracity of the incident with DSP Mani and it was found that two police personnel - head constable Suresh and police writer Palanisamy were both involved in this.

The SP called Suresh on the open mic and suspended him immediately. Palanisamy was transferred to the Reserved Force.

Rising Caste Related Crimes

Tamil Nadu is witnessing a spurt in caste related crimes. The Lede had earlier reported on the caste clashes across different parts of the state just as polling ended last month.

As per NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data of 2016 (the latest available data), Tamil Nadu had 1291 cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes registered in the state. Ranking 15 in India in these crimes, the state contributes to 3.2% of all crimes against SCs and STs in the country.

(This story has been updated with the news of Varshini Priya’s passing and some errors have been corrected.)

The Lede