This lawyer has helped many couples marry in the face of opposition

Meet the Trichy lawyer whose mission is protecting inter-caste couples facing family wrathImage: V Muthukumar
news Saturday, April 23, 2016 - 08:56

For Kannadasan and Chitra, two small-town youngsters in the neighbourhood of Trichy, their mutual love could tear their lives apart. After all, he was a Dalit and she was from a powerful higher caste. But despite their fear, they were determined to be together and be married, even in the face of pressure and threats of violence from her family. But they couldn’t do it all on their own.

And so they turned to V Muthukumar, a 39-year-old advocate in Trichy,  who helps couples from different castes marry and stay safe from relatives who pose a threat to their.

Popularly known as ‘Karate V Muthukumar’, the lawyer has helped more than 1300 couples get married, the majority of them marrying across castes. And this help he has extended not only to couples in Tamil Nadu, but also in Karnataka, Kerala and even faraway Jharkhand.

Muthukumar says that he knew little about caste and the social expressions of caste difference until he began studying in Trichy Law College in 1998. “In school, I had never seen any caste issues or differences, but after I started studying in Trichy Law College I saw different groups in the college. One group wouldn’t even talk to another. That’s when I realized that such issues existed,” he said.

But he did not understand just how bad caste issues were until he helped a friend of his from Erode marry the girl he loved. She was from a Gounder family and he was a Dalit. “They contacted me as I was studying law. I helped them get married at a temple and they were in hiding,” he said.

The next day, Muthukumar and the couple reached the police station. More than 30 cars surrounded the police station and the girl’s family tried to bribe Muthukumar to hand over the couple to them. He refused. “I was attacked by two cars when I was leaving the station. I had a narrow escape,” he said.

Later, the case reached the court, and the couple’s right to live together was affirmed. The court ordered the police to provide the couple with protection until they reached whatever destination they had chosen to settle down.

The couple moved to Kerala in what seemed like a satisfactory end to the story. However, a few months later, Muthukumar came to know that the couple had been murdered.  

That incident helped Muthukumar understand the seriousness of inter-caste marriages. “After that case, I became careful and I now seriously plan for each case,” he said.

Currently, he is an advocate at the Trichy District Court, where he practices criminal law. He often uses his legal expertise to help couples fight their way through legal entanglements that their families might try to ensnare them in.

He approaches each couple seeking his help in a methodical manner. “For every inter-caste marriage, first we have three hours counselling with them. In that time, we also finalize the fees and expenses of the case,” he said.

After the counselling is complete, Muthukumar decides which police station the couple should surrender themselves at, in order to tackle any possible legal opposition they may face. “The higher caste family or relatives usually file a false case in a station saying that the girl or boy has been kidnapped,” he said. He chooses the station keeping in mind his network of contacts and the safety of the couple.  

Depending on the particulars of each case, Muthukumar and his team work out how to keep the couple safe.  In his last case, for instance, the girl’s family, belonging to the Vellalar community, was made to submit a written statement stating that they will not do anything to harm the couple. Until this declaration was given, the were living in a secret location provided by Muthukumar.

Muthukumar says that he uses a number of different locations to keep couples safe from their relatives. “It depends on the case; it can be my house, my relatives’ houses or even in my friends’ houses which are in other districts,” he said.

The safety of the couple seems to be the top priority for Muthukumar. He asserts that being trained in karate, he is even ready to fight for the couples. In 2010, Muthukumar suffered a head injury after being attacked by relatives of one of the couples he was trying to help. “I was hit by a relative with a sickle. I had about 32 stitches on the back of my head and 15 stitches on my forehead. I had to go through major surgery,” he said.

Why carry on this task when it is so unsafe? “I want to help couples in love. I am capable of protecting myself and the couples. There are about 15 people always around me to keep me safe,” he said.

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