Thoothukudi: There's a pall of gloom and fear at the home of Murugan, a Dalit science graduate residing in the Pudukottai village in Tuticorin district. A 17-year-old girl from the upper caste Thevar community, who had eloped with him, was found murdered a few days ago in the neighbouring Tirunelveli district.
The police suspects the family of the girl to be behind the murder and has arrested her two brothers.
Murugan, however, hides in fear that he may be attacked next.
At his home, however, no one is willing to speak out. The family exercises abundant restraint.
"They have done no harm to us. Why should we blame anyone for this and make it a big issue? My brother should not have fallen in love with an upper caste girl. He should have found a partner in our own Dalit community," Murugan's elder brother Ottaikaran says.
When asked if individuals don't have the right to choose their life partners, he shoots back, "When we go to schools, the government asks what caste are we. Thevars, Scheduled Castes or Muslims. If the government stops asking castes, these issues will stop."
For years, the Dalits have largely depended on their Thevar landlords for their livelihood in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. And they became easy targets when their menfolk married Thevar women. The early nineties saw bloody communal clashes in the region.
More recently, upper caste women have become victims of the dishonour killings, with at least six in the last two years alone.
A social worker in the area rues that the government has not done anything effective to stop the killings.
The police in the area is on tenterhooks fearing that the latest incident may trigger fresh violence.