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Tamil Nadu to Build Safe Houses for Inter-Caste Couples

last week, TN High Court directed the state government to build safe shelters and set up a 24-hour helpline, among other measures, for inter-caste couples who fear for their lives

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Kamna Gautam and Gowri Shankar celebrate their wedding in Delhi on Dec. 2, 2010.
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Chennai, April 20, 2016:

For Gowri Shankar and Kamna Gautam, an inter-community couple from Tamil Nadu in the south of India, the state government’s decision to provide protection to couples like them has come as a huge relief.

Shankar, an upper caste Brahmin from Kumbakonam, married Kamna, who belongs to a lower community of Brahmins, in 2010, against the wishes of their families. The couple was forced to live apart from relatives until two years ago when the families “finally relented.”

Shankar said he was lucky.

“It could have been a lot worse,” he said, referring to a string of recent “honor killings” in his state.

Honor killings, in which couples are attacked because their families disapprove of their relationships over caste or religion, have emerged as a major debate in the last two decades in officially secular but historically caste-conscious India.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Shankar hailed last week’s High Court order, which directed the Tamil Nadu government to build safe shelters and set up a 24-hour helpline, among other measures, for inter-caste couples who fear for their lives.

“Such an order was long overdue because there is no place for caste discrimination in modern-day India,” he said.

“It is a big relief for us and many other couples that don’t care about the caste of their partner, but still have to live each day in fear of being attacked or killed by their own families,” Shankar, a software engineer, told BenarNews.

However, Shankar expressed doubt about how the order would be carried out.

“Tamil Nadu police officials are also caste-ist. So, I’m not sure how they’re planning to implement this,” he said.

Government seeks data

A senior state official said Monday that the government had already begun work to implement the High Court order.

Raj Shekharan, deputy secretary of the Department of Social Welfare, told BenarNews: “We have already directed our field officers to send us the data for ‘honor killings’ from their respective areas. After we receive their reports, we will consult the law department and other concerned agencies before preparing a draft proposal (to address the problem).”

Evidence, a Tamil Nadu-based organization working to secure rights of the Dalit community, which forms the lowest rung of the Hindu caste hierarchy, claims there have been more than 80 honor killings in the state in less than three years.

Although India-specific figures are unavailable, U.N. statistics show that 1,000 of 5,000 such killings annually occur in India, a majority of them in the country’s rural pockets.

Hacked to death

In the latest such incident, V. Sankar, a 22-year-old engineering student, was hacked to death allegedly by members of his wife’s family in broad daylight in Tamil Nadu’s Udumalpet town last month.

Sankar, a Dalit, had married Kausalya, 19, who belongs to the upper Thevar caste, eight months before the brutal attack, which occurred in full public view and was caught on closed-circuit cameras.

Sankar and Kausalya, who was critically injured in the attack, had approached police on several occasions, citing threat to life, but no action was taken to provide them with security, Sankar’s brother, Vigneswaran, had told BenarNews then.

Last week’s court ruling is set to change that.

Three-month deadline

Among the court’s nine-point directive, the state government has been ordered to establish a special cell in each of the state’s districts to ensure the safety of inter-caste couples who fear attacks from family or community members.

These cells, which have to be set up within three months, must comprise a Superintendent of Police, District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi Dravidar (Dalit) Welfare Officer, according to the directive.

The government must also create a special fund to protect inter-caste couples who elope fearing a threat to life, the court said. The fund is to be utilized for providing shelter to the couples and rehabilitating them.

A bill that calls for harsher punishment for honor crimes has been debated since 2010 but has yet to be tabled in parliament for clearance.

“Legislation to take stringent action against those involved in honor killings should be brought forward,” G. Ramakrishnan of the left-wing Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) told reporters recently.

“Without considering the political affiliation or vote bank politics, it is the responsibility of all parties to put an end to such heinous crimes,” he said.

Calls for similar setup across India

Priyanka Gupta, a social development officer from Rajasthan state who married her upper-caste colleague Laxman in 2012 against the wishes of his family, said a system to protect inter-caste couples should be put in place across India.

“We don’t need moral policing. What we need is awareness campaigns all over India,” Gupta told BenarNews.

“It is strange that the country believes you can choose your government at 18 years, but your family and community members don’t give you the right to choose your life partner,” she said.

Neeraj Pandey, a lawyer in the High Court of north India’s Uttar Pradesh state, which has one of the highest rates of honor killings in the country, agreed with Gupta.

Each day the Uttar Pradesh court hears about 80 cases pertaining to honor crimes, Pandey told BenarNews.

“Soon, we will move a Public Interest Litigation seeking directions to the state government to take stringent measures to curb honor killings,” he said. (BenarNews)

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Waves of black as Modi visits Chennai

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport in the wake of statewide agitation demanding constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

Protests were also held with black flags and placards throughout Tamil Nadu in cities like Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Coimbatore and Tuticorin against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state and the Centre’s failure to constitute the CMB despite a Supreme Court order. Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Narendra Modi welcomed with black flags in chennai.

In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, chose a helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai, in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city. From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.

The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu. Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.

Also Read: Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin, who was on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan. “The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” he said taking a dig at Modi.

A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.

In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Cauvery River Dispute is going on for a while now. Wikimedia Commons

While MDMK chief Vaiko held a black flag protest in Velachery, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was arrested elsewhere. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka. Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday. IANS