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In TN's caste heartland, it may not always be suicide

By A Ganesh Nadar
October 21, 2009 18:02 IST

Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu was always a hotbed of casteist violence. But till now there are no incidences of mass caste violence. The caste divide is just below the surface, simmering, as we saw in the double tumbler system prevailing in tea shops that was revealed by last year.

Five deaths in the district which were thought to be suicides were reinvestigated by a persistent police force and, shockingly, all turned out to be murders. One of the murderers was brought to justice three years after the incident. Superintendent of Police, Tirunelveli district, Asra Garg tells the sordid details.

In April, 2008 Manuvelraj, son of Thangam of Madathupatti village, died in an accident. An accident case was duly registered in the Seevalaperi police station. A year later, acting on an anonymous tipoff, the police picked up a suspect who, after a 12-hour long sustained interrogation, caved in and admitted that they had murdered Manuvelraj and were paid Rs 1 lakh for it.

Nine accused were then picked up, and it was found that they had murdered Manuvelraj because he had dared to fall in love with a girl of a different caste.

In another case, in April, head constable Petchimuthu working in Tirunelveli city police station was heart-broken when he was informed that his son, Muthuganesh, had died after consuming poison.

The reasons were the same as in the previous case. A love affair between a couple from different castes. The boy was a Thevar and the girl was a Nadar, two castes that were at loggerheads. and as expected the girl's parents had refused the proposal. The disheartened boy was said to have committed suicide.

This time too an anonymous call, this time directly to the SP, helped solve the crime. The police picked up the girl's mother. She confessed to the crime after six hours.

She said she called the boy home on the pretext of discussing the marriage, told him they needed pesticide for their fields and asked the boy to buy a good pesticide on his way to their home. The fact that the boy himself had bought the pesticide convinced the cops that he had committed suicide.

The girl's mother, along with four other relatives, gave him the poison mixed in fruit juice. The girl's mother works as a  postmaster, a central government employee.

The third case also concerns love but alas of the hidden kind. Veldurai of Alangulam suspected that his wife Krishnaveni was having an affair with another man, so he killed her and threw her body into a canal. The body was not found.

However, in his village he told people that his wife had run away with her paramour and was living in Kerala. Three years passed and no one was any wiser. In March 2009, Veldurai was arrested in another case.

After he confessed to his crime following interrogation the police asked, "So what else have you been up to?" For reasons known only to him Veldurai blurted out, "Three years ago I killed my wife and threw her body into the canal."

In the fourth case Chinnadurai and his elder brother Veeraputhiran along with two others killed Chinnadurai's wife Shanmugavadicoo and buried her on the outskirts of their village which is near Veeranam. This happened in October 2008.

The reason again: they suspected that she was involved with another man. They too told villagers that she was known to be living in Kerala with her lover.

Acting on local rumours, the police investigated the case in April 2009. All the accused duly confessed to their crime.

In the last case Arumugam, son of Nainar of Ukkirankottai near Manur, died after consuming poison in April. A case of suicide was registered in the local police station. A fortnight ago an anonymous call informed the police of foul play in the matter.

The police investigated the case and another love affair surfaced. Arumugam was in love with a girl from a near by village, she belonged to a different caste.

The girl's parents not only refused to unite the lovers but also married her off to another boy in their own community.

The jilted lover did not give up but kept calling her and managed to keep in touch with her.

The girl's father, uncle and brother decided to do something about it. They found two friends of Arumugam who regularly drank with him, and paid them Rs 50,000 to kill him.

On April 5, the three friends went on a drinking binge as usual. Arumugam;s friends mixed poison in his drink.

When the girl's maternal uncle Ayakutti was arrested and interrogated, he confessed to the crime.

And finally the SP Garg told us a story with a happy ending that also involved a couple from different castes.

The girl was sent to her maternal uncle's home where she was locked up for three months. The girl wrote a letter to the SP and one of her friends managed to smuggle the letter out and post it.

"I get so many letters and do not have the time to personally read all of them, my assistants do that, but I happened to read this particular letter," Asra smiled.

He then sent a police party to the maternal uncle's home and the girl was rescued. The boy was sent for and early this month they were married by the cops themselves.

A Ganesh Nadar in Tirunelveli