About two weeks ago, the entire nation watched in horror when television channels broadcast CCTV footage of a young couple being attacked with sickles in broad daylight in Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur.
Nineteen-year-old Kousalya survived the March 13 attack, but her husband Sankar did not. She was an upper-caste woman and he a Dalit man and their inter-caste marriage had angered Kousalya’s relatives. Her parents are among the suspects currently in jail for having plotted the “honour killing”.
The young couple’s elaborate plans for a happy future together ended abruptly. A fresh engineering graduate, Sankar was to leave for Chennai the next day for a job interview when he was killed.
Without him, Kousalya faces an uncertain future. Having spent several days in the intensive care unit of a Coimbatore hospital recovering from multiple wounds, she has come back to her in-laws’ home in Komaralingam village of Tirupur. Her own relatives having turned against her, she is counting on the support of Sankar’s father, Velusamy, and brother, Vigneshwaran.
HT: How is your health now?
Kousalya: There is still some pain, but they have removed the stitches. I had 36 of them on my head.
HT: What do you feel about returning home?
Kousalya: It is painful
HT: What are your plans? Will you be staying here in future?
Kousalya: Yes. My father-in-law hasn’t been doing too well. He needs care. I would like to start working again.
HT: What about your plans to continue your studies? We hear an employees union has come forward to sponsor your studies.
Kousalya: I cannot be a full-time student, because if I go away there will be no one to take care of things at home. I will continue the course as a correspondence student. I can do that as my course is a computer science and engineering course.
HT: Will you be able to go back to your previous job?
Kousalya: I used to work in a tiles showroom. They are nice people but are worried about what would happen if they take me back. I hope I can get some work doing accounts in some office.
HT: What about your parents? Do you anticipate any more trouble from them or your relatives?
Kousalya: I really can’t say what they will do. I am not sure, they may make trouble again. Or they may just stay away. I don’t know.
HT: What is the cause for such honour killings?
Kousalya: In the Thevar community, the caste identity is more important than anything else. It is more than the love for their child. They don’t hesitate to kill so that a clear message goes out: it is an example, a lesson, to prevent anyone else from doing the same thing. This is a norm among the Thevars.
HT: So who was responsible for the death of your husband?
Kousalya: My parents, relatives, and their supporters.
HT: Will you be able to forgive them?
Kousalya: No, they must be punished for what they have done. They have to bear the full penalty for their crime. They killed Sankar before my eyes.
HT: Do you miss your parental home, your siblings?
Kousalya: I have just one younger brother. No sisters. At first I did miss him a little, but not any more.