‘Fan pages' celebrate caste murder convict Yuvaraj as HC hears appeals

Several social media pages have posts and videos praising Yuvaraj for his ‘valour’ and for ‘protecting the honour’ of Gounder women.
Yuvaraj sentenced to life in Gokulraj murder case
Yuvaraj sentenced to life in Gokulraj murder case

On November 25, an Instagram page called king_yuvaraj_gounder posted a picture of a man named Yuvaraj, who was smiling at the camera, with the song ‘Vettum Puli’ playing in the background. Yuvaraj isn’t a sportsperson who has won a championship or an actor with a hit movie. He is the head of a caste outfit who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the cold-blooded murder of 21-year-old Gokulraj, a Dalit youth. In the last few weeks, the fan pages of Yuvraj have been abuzz with stylised videos of him walking out of court with police escorts mixed with dramatic background music from Tamil blockbusters like Vikram, Thimiru and Annamalai.

The social media campaign was a build-up for a crucial court hearing in the Gokulraj murder case. The Instagram posts were put up with captions predicting an acquittal in a clear attempt to preempt the legal proceedings. The convict himself seems to have no remorse for the murder he committed and is always seen smiling in these videos.

The posts appeared on a day the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court was having a crucial hearing. Swathi, the ‘star witness’ in the murder, who had turned hostile and retracted her earlier statement implicating Yuvraj, had been asked to reappear before the court. Sticking to her earlier statement, Swathi maintained that she did not know Gokulraj and was not with him the day she died. Even as this tense scene was playing out in court, the Instagram fan page with almost 2,250 followers declared that “our people” must be ready to be involved in “field work” with Yuvaraj after his release.

The “our people” that the post refers to are members of Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai, a militant outfit of the Gounder caste that Yuvaraj started in Namakkal district. Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai members have been busy on multiple Yuvaraj fan pages drumming up support for their leader and building political pressure for his release from prison. Some videos feature men from the caste-outfit carrying Yuvaraj and treating him like a hero as he is being taken into the police vehicle. And despite two judges of the High Court noting that Swathi could be under pressure, these fan pages have not been reigned in by the Tamil Nadu police.

One post on November 26 on a page called kvg_tunes that has around 9,500 followers shared a video of Yuvaraj walking with a police officer with background music that says ‘ungala paatha ellarum bayapadanum’ (everyone must be afraid when they see you). On November 18, a video on an Instagram page called kongu_vellalar_vamsam that has around 21,000 followers had a video of Yuvaraj, with a woman’s voice in the background saying that if a tiger is crouching, it does not mean that it is afraid. These fan pages, some of which have up to 25,000 followers, have been posting frequently on Yuvaraj even as the Madras High Court hears appeals in the case where the convict has sought leniency and Gokulraj’s mother has sought the death sentence.


A post shared by KVG tunes (@kvg_tunes)

Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai is an outfit that actively discourages inter-caste marriages and promotes caste pride among Gounder youth. In fact, the lower court found that Gokulraj was killed only because he was a Dalit man who dared to visit a temple with a Gounder woman. Despite Yuvaraj’s conviction, he is hailed as a hero by these pages for ‘saving’ their community and ‘defending the honour’ of Gounder women. Posts praising Yuvaraj and his actions are also filled with comments hailing his ‘valour’ and how the community should not lose hope because of the trial court’s conviction. Snippets of Yuvaraj’s interview to Thanthi TV, where he publicly discourages inter-caste marriages because it ‘destroys’ their community and the family system is being regularly shared on these social media platforms.

The agrarian community, which is categorised as a Backward Class, is fiercely protective of its land holdings and feudal bloodline. Militant groups from the community such as the one run by Yuvaraj promoted the idea that inter-caste marriages are a threat to the Gounder way of life. The posts on his fan page are not limited to valorising Yuvaraj and push a divisive agenda against inter-caste marriages.

A post from an Instagram handle named uvaraj_force_ had a silhouette image of a man on his knees with a rose and a woman receiving it with the text ‘kalappu thirumanam thadupom’ (let us avoid ‘mixed’ marriages). A comment with a string of emojis under that post reads ‘illaiendral kalutthai arupom’ (otherwise, we will slit your throat). The post and the comment reflect the larger sentiment within the Gounder community stemming from the idea that a marriage outside the caste will result in its disintegration.

Pages that promote such ideas have videos that try to exhibit strength in numbers and make a show of aggressive masculinity. Several videos show members of Yuvaraj’s caste outfit, mostly young men, racing with their bikes carrying flags of the caste-outfit during the birth anniversary of local chieftain Dheeran Chinnamalai who resisted British rule. The captions and the comments for these posts hint that they were posted to indicate the strength of the men of the community in order to deter people from messing with ‘their’ land and women. Other videos include men (women are visibly absent in these gatherings) garlanding Yuvaraj, carrying him and putting him on a pedestal, literally. Any news about the court proceedings of Yuvaraj’s case, is quickly publicised on these pages, either with a sad background music or a ‘mass’ one, depending on the context. Recently, when the hearing was postponed by two weeks, most of these pages posted screenshots of the update and indicated that the next hearing will be in favour of Yuvaraj.

Looking at these posts from fan pages dedicated to Yuvaraj and from Gounder meme pages, one can gauge the menacing impact they can have on vulnerable people. While the people behind this social media campaign are careful not to mention the star witness who turned hostile, there is discernible pressure on Swathi to side with her community. The posts from these pages, particularly the reactions, also indicate how significant sections of the community can be turned against someone like Swathi who is considered as a ‘deviant’ for trying to indict a man who killed for ‘honour’.

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