Protests broke out in Cuddalore district this week after the death of a Dalit man in Pune. Twenty five-year-old Paranthaman from Cuddalore was found hanging at a lodge in Pune on January 4. While the police say that this was a case of suicide, Paranthaman’s family have alleged that he was victim to a caste hate crime.
Last week, Paranthaman married Valli*, who is from Madurai and belongs to the dominant Kallar caste. The couple married at a registrar’s office in Madurai. However, Paranthaman was soon arrested by the police under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, as Valli’s parents claimed she was a minor.
According to Paranthaman's family, Valli* had used her Aadhaar card for identification purposes during the wedding, which stated that she was 20 years old. Her family had initially filed a missing persons complaint, Paranthaman’s relatives said, in which they had said she was over 18 years old. “But soon after news of their marriage reached them, they went to the Madurai court with school certificates to prove that Valli was a minor,” a relative said. She was then sent to a government home by the court and Paranthaman was booked under POCSO.
Paranthaman was given conditional bail and told to sign a register at the Sindupatti police station in Madurai district everyday. "He came out on bail on January 2 and went to sign the register. On January 3, he spoke to us very normally and said that he was in Madurai," says Paranthaman's brother Moorthy, a lawyer, "But that night he was actually in Pune and was found hanging in the room the next morning at a lodge. Why would he go without even telling us?”
“Valli has relatives in Pune and we believe that they killed my brother,” he alleges, “In addition to this they have given fake school certificates to make her seem like a minor.”
Thirumangalam all women's police station inspector Sumathi however denied the allegations. "The parents proved in court that she is a minor and the court decided that she cannot decide on the marriage even though she wanted to be with him," says the investigating officer. "Moreover, he went to Pune by himself and killed himself because he couldn't be with her. There is CCTV footage of him checking in alone at the lodge. He heard that she was with relatives in Mumbai and went there. This is not a caste crime," she adds.
Relatives of Paranthaman are however unconvinced. "We will wait for the post mortem report to know what happened," says Moorthy, "I know my brother, he was ready to fight, not die."