Based on the statements during the trial, the court observed that Kevin’s murder was indeed an ‘honour killing’, which also makes it the first ‘honour killing’ conviction in Kerala.

Kevin case proves caste is a reality in Kerala Activists welcome court judgmentPicture courtesy - Vishnu Prathap
news Caste Killing Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - 17:51

With 10 of the 14 accused in the murder case of Kevin Joseph, a Dalit Christian in Kerala, sentenced to double life imprisonment by a court in Kottayam on Tuesday, activists feel that the court’s observation of the incident being an issue of ‘honour-killing’ or ‘caste killing’ is a welcome verdict.

It’s been almost 15 months since Kevin’s body was found in a canal in Kollam, two days after he was abducted by his wife Neenu’s elder brother. Shanu Chacko. He was unhappy about his sister’s decision to marry Kevin, a Dalit Christian. Shanu, along with nine others, were found guilty by the Principal Sessions Court of Kottayam Judge C Jayachandran on August 22.

Based on the statements from both sides, the court had observed that Kevin’s murder was indeed an ‘honour killing’, which also makes it the first ‘honour killing’ conviction in Kerala. 

“This observation by the court is important because caste-killing is something that Kerala society and many politicians have claimed to be non-existent in the state,” notes Sunny M Kapikkad, a writer and activist based in Kerala.

Speaking to TNM, Sunny feels that society must learn a lesson from the court’s verdict. “This act of murder from Neenu’s family was done based on false emotions. The society should be made to understand that they cannot be forced or influenced by other’s words or opinions on matters regarding prestige and respect - ‘what will society say or think when they hear about an intercaste marriage in our family?’. That is the reason behind most caste-based violence reported in the country,” states Sunny.

On finding that Neenu had decided to marry a Dalit Christian, her brother Shanu had kidnapped Kevin on May 26, 2018. His body was found floating in the Chaliyekkara canal in Kollam on May 28. However, Neenu’s father Chacko John, the fifth accused in the case, and three other accused were acquitted by the court on August 22. Chacko, a Latin Christian, was also against Neenu marrying Kevin.

According to K Ajitha, a human right’s activist, one of the reasons why the court was able to observe that this was indeed a case of ‘honour killing’ was because of the strength shown by Neenu as well as Kevin’s father Joseph, who fought without wavering even once, throughout the last 15 months. 

“How many people can do that? Similar murders have happened in Kerala in the past as well. But it is only now that an authoritative body has accepted it as a ‘caste murder’,” says Ajitha. 

Accepting reality and learning from it

The court’s observation, according to writer and activist Rekha Raj, should be an opportunity for society to open up to conversations about the existing reality. “This verdict, to a certain extent, has busted the myth that caste-based atrocities do not take place in Kerala and that it is not restricted to a particular religion,” she feels.

Rekha goes on to add that the whole idea of Kerala being portrayed as a “progressive state” is hyped up and that the court’s verdict on Kevin’s case has proved that. “By stating that casteism is only practised in other states and that it doesn’t exist in Kerala, people have always been blind and ignorant to such issues. But in the recent past, such caste-based discrimination is being increasingly reported from the state, whether it is the discrimination subjected to actor Vinayakan for voicing out his political views or be it Kevin’s case.”

Sunny M Kapikkad feels that the state government and cultural organisations, as well as activists, must spread awareness about the existence of caste killing and Kevin’s case is a crucial example for this.

Also read: Why the Kevin murder trial is a landmark in the battle against casteism in Kerala

Justice for Kevin: Ten convicts sentenced to double life imprisonment by Kerala court

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