A marriage between a Dalit boy and an upper caste girl last year, which had the potential to bring the two communities together, ended up splitting them further, when on Thursday the boy was found dead on a railway track, a day after the girl spurned him in a courtroom.
The marriage between E Ilavarasan, 20 and Divya, 21, in August last year had sparked off intense caste violence in northern Tamil Nadu. In fact, the girl’s father, Nagaraj, committed suicide the night the couple got married, in Sellankottai village in Dharmapuri district, 380km from Chennai.
His death had intensified the caste war, with the Vanniyar community members setting dalit homes on fire. Pattali Makkal Katchi, a political party led by Dr S Ramadoss, accused Dalit boys of luring Vaniyar girls into marriage and used the marriage to rally other backward castes — gounders and naickers — against a "Dalit conspiracy" aimed at targeting girls from their communities.
Despite pressure from her community and the ensuing violence however, Divya chose to stay with Ilavarasan under police protection.
But everything changed when she did not return from the visit to her ailing mother in June this year. Ilavarasan filed a police complaint in Dharmapuri that his wife had gone missing.
Divya’s mother Thenmozhi too filed a habeas corpus petition, seeking the whereabouts of her daughter.
When Divya appeared before a division bench along with her mother on Wednesday, the judges asked her with whom she wanted to live. Her mother was lonely after her father’s death and she told the court that she would rather live with her.
She refused to entertain the pleas of her husband, who wanted her to return to him, and declared the relationship was over.
Divya’s lawyer K Balu, a member of the legal wing of the PMK, told reporters on Wednesday that the marriage was not legal as Ilavarasan was not 21, the legal age of marriage.
A dejected Ilavarasan apparently committed suicide and his body was found on the railway tracks near Dharmapuri on Thursday morning, crushed beneath the wheels of a passing train. Police said that it appeared to be a case of suicide, but no suicide note has been found so far.
A Dalit leader from Viduthalai Chirutaigal Katchi, a Dravidian political party, said, "Politicians should not interfere in matters of heart and leave the youngsters alone. Divya succumbed to her community pressure but poor Ilavarasan gave up his life for the girl he loved."