Madurai

‘Dalit girl takes own life after elders scuttle intercaste marriage’

Madurai

A 19-year-old girl from a Scheduled Caste (SC) community in Dharmapuri district died by suicide after her 90-day-old marriage with a Vanniyar groom, a minor, ended after his parents forcibly took him away to an undisclosed destination, activists said.

The issue came to light only now after a fact-finding team from ‘Evidence’, an NGO working for the cause of the downtrodden, from Madurai visited the hamlet and interacted with the victim’s family and relatives.

Speaking to The Hindu, Evidence Executive Director A. Kathir said on Tuesday that the developments had taken place between February and October 2020. “It was unfortunate that the authorities had not followed the Supreme Court’s guidelines [on protecting inter-caste couples from persecution]. Failure to adhere to the norms had claimed the life of an innocent Dalit girl, he added.

The girl’s grandparents explained to the team members the ordeal faced by the victim before she died, Mr. Kathir said.

Even after the 18-year-old boy was taken away by her relatives, the girl managed to trace him and when she pleaded that they could live together, her husband had turned down the idea. Unable to accept the rejection, the girl consumed poison and, after battling for about a fortnight, she died in the Government Hospital, Dharmapuri on October 2.

A police officer investigating the case said the FIR had been altered to one of ‘abetment of suicide’ under Section 306 of the IPC. It also invokes provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015.

The team members say the police did not produce the couple before a Juvenile Board. On the other hand, they allowed the boy’s family to handle the issue. The team members said the village elders had assembled and directed the girl’s family to accept money as ‘compensation’. These acts were against Supreme Court guidelines, and also claimed the girl’s life, they said.

Narrating the victim’s plight, her grandfather Srinivasan (65) said he had brought her up since the girl's mother died soon after her birth. Unfortunately, the girl's father married another woman and went away, forcing the grandfather to raise her.

In a small hamlet Kaarimangalam, under the care of her grandparents, the girl studied in a local school. After she fell in love with the boy from the locality, they married in a local temple on February 2, 2020, and lived together in different locations, including at a dwelling in Samathuvapuram for about three months, the team members said.

However, the boy's parents, who were frantically searching for him, found him finally and whisked him away to an undisclosed destination in June. They reportedly threatened the girl to go home and live with her grandparents and insisted that she forget the boy and the marriage.

Shocked, the girl lodged a complaint with the Kambainallur police station in August 2020. However, instead of inquiring into it, the police is said to have asked the girl to appear before the villagers for a “peaceful” settlement between the two families. The meeting of elders, at which the girl and her grandparents were present amidst a risk to her life, directed the girl to accept money as the verdict and start a new life.

Following this, she consumed poison and remained unconscious, Mr. Kathir said. Her grandparents rushed her to the GH on September 16, where the end came on October 2, he said.

As the news of the death reached the police, the boy was arrested and produced before the Juvenile Board, which directed him to be kept in a Correctional Home, Mr. Kathir said and added that the State government should take stern action against the police for negligence, and arrest the family members of the boy.

The grandparents should be given a compensation of ₹ 25 lakh and monthly pension of ₹10,000, the team members said.

Those in distress or having suicidal tendencies could seek help and counselling by calling State's helpline 104 and Sneha's suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 8:08:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/dalit-girl-takes-own-life-after-elders-scuttle-intercaste-marriage/article32903086.ece

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