Athira, the 22-year old daughter of Rajan, a native of Poovathingal near Pathanapuram in Areekode, Malappuram district was stabbed to death on March 22, Thursday.
That is, it has been almost a week since the incident occurred. Athira’s wedding was scheduled to take place on March 23. Her father who was opposed to her marriage with her fiancé stabbed her to death. Brajesh, an army man hailing from Koyilandy, Kozhikode was the groom. While he belongs to the Scheduled Caste community, Athira hailed from Thiyya community. Rajan vehemently opposed his daughter’s relationship with the man from Pulaya community. There had been arguments over this matter at home. At one point, even the Areekode police intervened in the matter. It was after the conciliatory talks by the police and the locals that the family agreed to the marriage. However, as the wedding date approached Rajan was upset. Eventually, he killed his own daughter on the eve of her wedding. It is the same familiar honour killing that takes place usually in North India. According to the reports, Rajan told the police that he committed the crime fearing the ridicule of the relatives and friends, had he given his daughter’s hand in marriage to a man belonging to a lower caste.
But, it is not the happening which is curious but the extent of laxity displayed by the political and cultural community in Kerala towards such a heinous murder. Athira had been working as a lab technician after her MLT graduation. Brajesh who is an army man, has all the necessary wherewithal for giving a dignified life to the girl he marries. But the bride’s father cannot accept Brajesh as his son-in-law only because he belongs to a lower caste. It must be kept in mind that the incident occurred in a state where the government spends crores from the treasury to advertise its boast that Kerala is number one. The Chief Minister has not been ready so far to react to the matter even through his Facebook account despite it being days since the incident. The Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes is silent. Mainstream political party leaders have also not uttered a word. The left wing student wing and the youth movements that impose progressiveness on to the entire society are also maintaining a deafening silence. Kerala never seriously debated the matter.
Why does Athira's tragic death not become a topic of debate? The reason is caste itself. But if we describe the murder of Athira as the first honour killing of Kerala, it will be an oversimplification. For there are several more who, because of falling in love across the caste walls, had to end their life by hanging themselves or on rail tracks. They had to flee from life because they did not have the stamina to take on casteist icons. The difference in Athira’s case is only that she was unfortunate to become a victim of outright murder. In other words, so dreadful is the hold of caste over our lives. Even those who talk big about progressiveness have not been able to hurt it at all. At best their reaction may be why Athira ventured for such an unwanted act; and hence their unwillingness to condemn that heinous murder.
If one observes the matrimonial ads in the name of progressive families in newspapers, the state of affairs in Kerala can more or less be gauged. The wording in them following the description of the progressive family will be - within brackets - 'except' certain castes by name. The sad fact is that the political and cultural leadership of our land includes those who bear similar hypocritical and strange progressiveness. Simply put, the crux is this: all are equally unwilling to strike at caste and therefore no wonder if overt and covert casteist murders continue to happen.