On a sultry night in May, 35-year-old Manikandan, a resident of Madhichiyam in Madurai, rushed out of his house to the Vaigai river bank in a towering rage. His relative, 27-year-old Saravanan says he had never seen his cousin brother that angry in all the years he had known him.
"He had always been the quiet one in the family and you wouldn't even know if he was in a room," says Saravanan. "But that night, he was different. We saw what love for children could do," he adds
Manikandan's 15-year-old daughter had gone to relieve herself near the river bank and had come running back home in tears, alleging that she was sexually harassed by a young man standing there.
"Manikandan went straight to the culprit, Mageshwaran, and gave him a tight slap on the cheek," says Saravanan. "We were shocked and so was that Mageshwaran. He immediately apologised and said that it won't happen again. My cousin was very angry but he warned the harasser and let him go. He decided that he should give Mageshwaran a chance and didn't go to the police immediately. Mageshwaran was just 21-years-old and we thought his life would get ruined," he adds.
Three months later, on Tuesday night (August 13), Manikandan was found dead outside his house in a pool of blood. His face was unrecognisable from the deep cuts administered by sharp weapons and the food he was bringing back home was splattered across the road.
"He was murdered by Mageshwaran and three others who wanted to take revenge against the victim," the Madhichiyam police tell TNM. "The accused, Mageshwaran, who is from Sellur, was humiliated because he got slapped and brought the others to teach Manikandan a lesson. Mageshwaran along with the other accused – Meenakshisundaram (22) and Marimuthu (23) – have been arrested," he adds.
The accused have allegedly been caught teasing young women on the roads in the past, but none of the villagers suspected that they would go as far as to murder a man.
According to relatives, Manikandan was pushed down and his face slashed.
"The murder happened at around 11 pm. We came to know only at midnight," Saravanan adds.
Manikandan's wife Hemalatha, is inconsolable, says Saravanan.
"He has three children – two girls, aged 15 and 13, and a boy aged 12. Now, Hemalatha has to find a way to run the house and pay for the children's education. She is devastated," he says. "Manikandan did what any parent would do – protect his child. How can any of us keep quiet when a young girl is being harassed? The only mistake he made was to forgive that harasser and give him a chance. If we had sent him to jail, my brother would still be alive."
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