Gowthaman’s family claimed he died by suicide, and has confessed that they cremated him without informing the police. His wife Amul however alleges murder.

Amul and Gowthaman intercaste marriage | Mystery around Vanniyar man death
news Caste Crime Monday, October 11, 2021 - 15:28

Amul, a 29-year-old woman from an Adi Dravidar community, is still waiting to find out what really happened to her husband who visited his hometown Karani in Thiruvalluvar district and died nearly a month ago under uncertain circumstances. Gowthaman had received a call on September 17 that his grandfather had died. Promising to return home the same night, he left for Karani for the funeral. Two days later, Amul found out that Gowthaman had died. 

Gowthaman was from the Vanniyar caste, an MBC caste group with considerable political clout in the northern regions of Tamil Nadu. His family was opposed to his relationship with Amul, whose community falls under the Scheduled Caste category. She is from Ponneri, where the couple met, also in Thiruvallur district. 

Gowthaman’s family claimed he died by suicide, and has confessed that they cremated him without informing the police. His brother and father have been taken into custody now under charges of abetting suicide, but Amul remains unconvinced that her husband would have suddenly taken his own life.

Until his death, Gowthaman was working in a mobile phone servicing store. Amul works as a nurse. The couple met in 2011, fell in love and decided to get married in 2019. There was strident opposition to their relationship from his family because of her caste, Amul tells TNM. “For almost a year when we were in a relationship, his family kept him in his aunt’s home. Whole months passed when we never spoke to each other. At one point, we nearly called off the relationship. He felt he would never be able to convince his family, but then he came back to me and said ‘let’s get married, we’ll deal with whatever comes’," she recalls. 

They had a registered wedding in Chennai’s Parry’s Corner in March 2019, and in September the same year, a small ceremony with relatives from Amul’s side at the Annai Velankanni Shrine in Besant Nagar. Though both of them are Hindu, Amul’s family, at times, visit the shrine too. In August this year, the couple’s baby was born, just about a month before Gowthaman died.


Life until Gowthaman’s death

Gowthaman's family found out about the marriage in time. Amul tells us that they kept pressuring Gowthaman to marry someone else who they thought “appropriate”, refusing to accept her. Gowthaman had no inclination to listen to his family, Amul says.

In 2012, Gowthaman’s cousins had been in touch with her, Amul says, advising her to “wait for some time”. One of the cousins had told her, “Let Gowthaman’s brother’s wedding get done with, be patient and I’ll support you both, otherwise, if the family decides to pick up a knife, I will also be forced to.”

Amul and Gowthaman lived in Chennai after their wedding. “In those days, he used to visit his hometown intermittently. The family owns some land. They were supposed to pass on a piece of that to him. His aim was to set up a mobile phone servicing shop with the proceeds,” Amul says. “He wanted to settle down, for us to be more financially comfortable.” About two months into her first pregnancy, she went through a miscarriage. They continued to live in Chennai until the second time she became pregnant. Fearing another miscarriage, Amul says she went to live with her sister in Ponneri soon after.

Despite the land-issue, Gowthaman had stopped going to Karani this last year because of his family’s demands to leave Amul and remarry. A little after Amul left for her sister’s home, she and Gowthaman decided to permanently shift to Ponneri. They shared the same home with her sister right until his death.

On the morning of Friday, September 17, Gowthaman received the phone call of his grandfather’s passing. “He asked me if it was okay if he went to the funeral. He said he’d come back that same night. So, I agreed. He played with the baby for a while and then left around 7 or 8 am. He spoke to me on the phone a few times that day, after reaching there. The first two times were just to ask us how we were all spending our time, if we’d eaten and what the baby was doing,” Amul says. “The second call came some time in the afternoon, if I remember correctly.”

During the second call, according to Amul, he’d also mentioned that he was just waiting for his grandfather’s body to be taken for cremation and that he’d head back to Ponneri after that. Then he called a third time, to inform her that moving the body might take longer than he’d initially expected, she says. “I told him to come back home in that case, if possible. I’d asked him to call me around 7 pm, to let me know about dinner." 

But 7 pm came and went, he hadn’t called. “I called him to find out if he’d be back for dinner or not, but I couldn’t reach him. When we were finally able to speak, he hung up quickly saying that there was ‘some problem’ and that he was talking to his family. He sounded a bit off.” At this point, Amul says that Gowthaman had told her he'd call her the next morning, but she’d insisted that he call her back at 10 pm. He agreed and cut the call. But the call never came, she says. 

Feeling increasingly uneasy, she tried his number around 11 pm. The call never went through that night. “Even if he stays the night, he returns home around 9 am, but even the next morning, Saturday, I couldn’t get through to him. I didn’t inform anyone at home that any of this had happened. Though I was scared, I kept expecting him home at any time then.” On Saturday, his phone was switched off, which was unusual for him. “He always lets me know if his phone is going to be off," Amul says.

Gowathaman failed to return home the following day (Sunday) too. Amul’s anxiety about him increased at this point, and she asked her elder brother to go to Karani to find out what the situation was. Her brother upon reaching Karani on September 20 discovered condolence posters announcing that Gowthaman had died. In the FIR filed at Arani police station, Amul alleges that her husband’s body had been cremated deliberately in order to hide evidence that his death was an “honour” killing. 

“He only went because his grandfather died and in the hope that some of the land the family owned could be transferred to him. He wanted us to be able to settle down to a more comfortable life. Until then, he was tired of his family asking him to remarry and had stopped visiting them,” Amul emphasizes again. She also alleges that the police are not sharing many details with her, "His family seems to have more information about this than I do. It looks like even the police are mostly personnel belonging to their caste.” 

A case has been registered under section 174 of the CrPC (police to enquire and report on sucide) and section 201 of the IPC (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender). Though last available news reports say that the brother and father of Gowthaman have been taken into custody, TNM was unable to reach the police to enquire about further developments in the case, at the time of filing this article.

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