TN Dalit man beheaded for relationship with woman from different SC community

The victim, Azhagendran, was stripped and beheaded. His body was left in the undergrowth and his head was buried near an irrigation tank
Image for representation only
Image for representation only

In a brutal caste killing reported in Madurai district, a man from the Arunthathiyar community was beheaded for his relationship with a woman from the Devandra Kulla Vellalar community. Both communities are categorised as Scheduled Caste (SC). However, Devandra Kulla Vellalars believe that they rank ‘higher’ in the caste hierarchy than Arunthathiyars. The victim, Azhagendran, was in his early twenties and had reportedly been in a relationship with Rudrapriya. He was stripped, beheaded and his body left in the undergrowth near Kalligudi town. 

Madurai district Superintendent of Police (SP) Arvind told TNM that Azhagendran’s body was not discovered until Thursday, June 27. The victim’s head was found buried separately in the bank of an irrigation tank nearby. 

The SP also said that the couple lived in Virudhunagar district with their families, but the murder was committed in Madurai district where Azhagendran hailed from. One person, identified as Prabakaran, has been taken into custody and is under interrogation. Rudrapriya’s father, Seenivasan, is on the run. Both Seenivasan and Prabakaran have previous cases against them in Virudhunagar, the SP added.

However, when asked about these previous cases, TNM was directed to the Virudhunagar police. When TNM reached out to Virudhunagar SP Feroze Khan Abdullah, he said that the case is being handled by the Madurai police and declined to provide details.

It is also unclear whether Rudrapriya is in a safe location or still with her family, as both the Madurai and Virudhunagar SPs claimed that they do not have any information regarding this.

Activists who alerted TNM to the case said that Rudrapriya’s family had threatened to murder Azhagendran if she did not call off the relationship. They further alleged that her family had used casteist slurs on Azhagendran and tried to break the couple up, claiming their "honour" would be lost if Rudrapriya married Azhagendran, who was from a "lower" caste. 

Activists also allege that Rudrapriya and Azhagendran tried to get married at a Murugan temple in Thiruparankundram (Madurai district) on June 24 but Rudrapriya’s family arrived, physically assaulted Azhagendran and abducted her from the spot. 

The term ‘Devendra Kulla Vellalars’ has only come into official use recently. According to Puthiya Tamilagam party chief Krishnasamy, who has been demanding to delist the community as SC and instead include them in the Other Backward Class (OBC) list, Devendra Kula Vellalars are traditionally a wetland farming community. Claiming that the Dalit identity was ‘imposed’ on them, he argues that they are descendants of the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas. 

In 2021, ahead of the Assembly elections, the Union government agreed to the demands of seven castes–Devendrakulathan, Kudumban, Pannadi, Kaalaadi, Kadayar, Pallar and Pathariar–to recognise them under the umbrella name of Devendra Kulla Vellalars instead. BJP leader L Murugan’s elevation to Cabinet in the same year was then seen as an attempt to woo the community. 

Read: PM Modi announces that Centre has accepted Devendra Kula Vellalars's demands

Earlier in 2019, Krishnasamy had led a movement demanding for the community to be removed from the Scheduled Caste list. However, the movement did not gain any momentum as several from the community disapproved of this stance since they continue to be socially and economically marginalised based on caste.  

It is also worth noting that a people’s draft Bill to end ‘honour’ killings was submitted to Chief Minister MK Stalin almost a year ago. The Bill was drafted by the Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network under the leadership of A Kathir, the founder-director of the well-known Madurai-based Dalit rights organisation Evidence. The Bill seeks to close the gap in existing special laws by ensuring “justice, compensation and rehabilitation in crimes committed in the name of honour vis a vis caste, faith, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, class, race, status and tradition”.

However, on June 25, Stalin said in Assembly that, “As I’ve mentioned before, we believe it is better to conduct investigations correctly and bring perpetrators to justice using the existing laws rather than bring in any new legislation.”

Also read: Anti-caste coalition has drafted a Bill to end ‘honour’ killings: Here’s what it says 

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