On July 7, 2003, a young couple- Murugesan and Kannagi- were tied up at a public place in front of almost 300 people in the Puthukkooraippettai village near Virudhachalam in Tamil Nadu- they were forced to drink poison and then their bodies burnt. Eighteen years after what was probably the first case of caste killing reported from the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, a Cuddalore special SC/ST court on Friday, September 24 convicted 13 accused in the case. Kannagiâ€™s brother Marudupandian who hatched the entire conspiracy has been given the death sentence while her father Duraisami has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Two police officers, who the court found had sided with the murderers, including a retired Deputy Superintendent of Police and a inspector have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 2003, S Murugesan, a 25-year-old man belonging to a Dalit community and D Kannagi, 22 hailing from the Vanniyar community fell in love and subsequently got married on May 5, 2003. Murugesan, a chemical engineering graduate and Kannagi, a Diploma holder had been in a relationship since their college days at Annamalai University in Chidambaram. Besides this, both were residents of Puthukkooraippettai village.
Though the inter-caste couple decided to marry, they had to keep it a secret from their families, as they belonged to different castes. Importantly, the couple feared about the disapproval and backlash from Kannagiâ€™s parents for marrying a Dalit man.
According to a Frontline report which details the incident, after the couple were secretly married, Kannagi stayed at her parentâ€™s house until Murugesan could secure a job. But as Kannagiâ€™s family came to know of her marriage, they showed strict opposition to the wedlock. This prompted Murugesan who in the meantime had secured a job in Tirupur to come and take Kannagi from her parentâ€™s home in July, 2003, added the Frontline report.
Infuriated over this, Kannagiâ€™s father C Duraisami, who was a panchayat president along with his elder son Marudupandian along with several other of his Vanniyar relatives held searches in Virudhachalam, including Murugesanâ€™s house.
The police officer in connection with the case told media that Murugesan was caught by Kannagiâ€™s family in July, 2003 and tortured him to reveal the whereabouts of Kannagi.
According to police, Murugesan was tied upside down into the village well and was threatened to be dropped if he concealed any information about Kannagi. Unable to bear the torture, Murugesan told Kannagiâ€™s father, brother and relatives that she was staying at one of his relativeâ€™s house.
Following this, Marudupandian along with his relatives brought the couple to the village and in front of several Puthu Kavaraipettai villagers, the couple were tied up and forced to drink a poisonous liquid. The bodies of the couple who dared to marry outside their caste were burned by her family.
Over several years of investigation by CBI, 15 accused were arrested by the Virudhachalam police in connection with the case, 11 accused belonged to deceased Kannagiâ€™s family, two of those arrested were Murugesanâ€™s family members, while the remaining two who were charged for the crime were retired DSP Chellamuthu and Tamilmaran, a Mangalampettai inspector currently under suspension due to corruption charges.
Judge S Uttamarasa of special SC/ST court ordered that two of the accused- Iyyasamy and Gunasekar- both relatives of deceased Murugesan, should be released.
Explaining the reason for the release of two accused Iyyasamy and Gunasekar, a police officer told the media, â€śIyyasamy, Murugesanâ€™s uncle was forced to give poison to Murugesan as Kannagiâ€™s father of Vanniyar community claimed he cannot touch Murugesan as he was a Dalit.â€ť
â€śAdditionally, Kannagiâ€™s family forced Iyyasamy and Gunasekar to burn his body. While Iyyasamy was riding the bike, Gunasekar riding pillion carried Murugesanâ€™s body,â€ť added the police.
Further the police said that the two police personnel were charged as they failed to register a complaint regarding the incident and intentionally supported the accused.