32-year-old Esakki Shankar body was sprawled on wild foliage, deep cuts visible on his hand and his chest. A fatal knife wound on his neck police believe was the likely cause of his death. Shankar's body was found at around 7.30 am on Tuesday at the banks of the Thamarbharani river which flows near his home at Vellanguli in Tirunelveli district. An employee at the Kalakkad branch of the Tirunelveli district Central Cooperative bank, Shankar was murdered when he went to take a bath at the river.
But over a day after he was hacked to death, Deputy Superintendent of Police of Ambasamudram subdivision Zaheer Hussain, who conducted the preliminary investigation says that they have established neither the motive for the murder nor zeroed in on possible suspects. An investigating official in his team however on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that they were looking into two possible motives, one of which is a hate crime.
"The man belonged to the Konar community (OBC) and we are hearing that he and a young woman from his neighborhood were in love. She was from the Thevar (OBC) community. So we are investigating if girl's family was involved in the murder. We are yet to confirm the exact motive. We are interrogating around 20 people," says the investigating officer.
Is the woman who was allegedly involved with him, being questioned as well? "No, she committed suicide last night," reveals the officer.
20-year-old Sathyabama allegedly hanged herself in her house, the night following Shankar's murder. But the deputy SP is quick to separate these two deaths.
"She killed herself over some education reasons," he offers. "There is no love angle. We are still investigating the case," he adds.
Both Konars and Thevars fall under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category. According to writer and Dalit historian Stalin Rajangam, both these communities have a history of power struggle in the Tirunelvelu belt.
"Thevars are numerically bigger in Tamil Nadu but the Tirunelveli belt has a sizeable Konar community. So tensions run high," says Stalin. "There are often scuffles that never make it to the news but the possibility of an honour killing in these communities cannot be ruled out," he adds.
The results of the postmortems of both Shankar and Sathyabama have been submitted to the police confirms the dean of the Tirunelveli government hospital.
Another angle that the police are looking into is a property dispute. According to reports, the victim's family recently got a direction in their favour in court over a property tussle. Shankar's cousins are reportedly suspects in the case, as they have moved the session court in Tirunelveli over the matter.
As of now an FIR has been filed in Shankar case under section 302 (murder) of the Indian penal code. But no arrests have been made yet.