The incident in which a newly married male youth, following his love marriage, was kidnapped at midnight by breaking into his house and brurally murdered, is enough to shake the social conscience of Kerala society.
Kevin P Joseph, aged 23 from Nattassery SH Mount in Kottayam was abducted at dawn on Sunday by a gang. Kevin's dead body was foud 20 kilometer away from Thenmala, in Chaliakkara canal on Monday. It was when an enquiry was going on on a complaint lodged against 10 persons including Kevin's fiancee Neenu Chacko, residing at Sanu Bhavan in Ottakkal, Thenmala, and her brother Shanu Chacko from Thenkala that the dead body was discovered.
The murder was inspired by the revenge following the knowledge about the marriage of Kevin and Neenu who had been in love for three years. The family who objected to the alliance and fixed another alliance for her, talked with both under the mediation of police. When the girl produced the documents of civil marriage and said she was going with her fiance, the girl's relatives tried to take her by force but in vain. The kidnapping and the murder took place the following day. Kevin's father and wife approached the Gandhi Nagar police station which had earlier handled the case, but the police deferred the issue citing their being busy with the chief minister's programme. Eventually it was when the bride Neenu started a sit-in strike at the polcie station and that made news, that the police swung into action with an enquiry. One cannot easily dismiss the parents' charge that the police sat quiet until Kevin was killed - in spite of the fact that they had received a serious complaint on a case the police had clear knowledge about. Although enough information was gathered about the members of the gang of abductors, the police did not display the vigilance to catch them. This points to the unholy nexus between the 'quotation' gang and the police. It is also likely that the assailant gang, including office bearers of the youth wing of the ruling party CPM, may have used their political influence in the matter.
The state government which ordered a transfer of the Superintendent of Police (SP) and suspension of the Sub Inspector (SI) has informed that the case will be referred to a special investigation team and that strict punishment will be meted out to the culprits. But the home ministry, and the chief minister who handles the home portfolio, cannot wash their hands off the responsibility for the grave failure of the police, which has been in the dock repeatedly for inefficiency and out of the way actions. The recurrent failures on the part of the police showing either gross negligence or atrocity are enough to nullify the claim of the left government that it is trying to impart lessons on humanity and natural justice to the police.
Because of the context of Chengannur bypoll, the Opposition is naturally bound to enter the fray to politicise and capitalise on, the issue. With a protest sit-in on Monday and a hartal on Tuesday, they are all set to blow it up. But the relevant question is how the government, the political parties handling power, and the Keralite society are looking at the real issue underlying the Mannanam murder, instead of making charges against each other. What happened in Mannanam was 'honour killing' in the name of caste pride which so far has only been heard as a distant tale from north India. It was marrying a girl who was higher in the caste hierarchy, that led to Kevin, a Dalit Christian succumbing to a lethal knife. This looks similar to another honour killing in Areekode in Malappuram district that took place on last March 22nd. Then the 22-year old Athira of Poovathikandy Palathingal Veettil, from Pathanapuram Areekode was stabbed to death by her father Rajan, out of opposition to the marriage of the Thiyya caste girl with a youth from Pulaya caste.
Even as Kerala goes about shouting from roof tops progressive slogans on love and marriage, the Keralite conscience has yet to banish its deep-rooted caste discrimination and religious hatred. What the honour killings of Areekode and Mannanam prove is that we are not far behind north India in the matter of caste-based intolerance. The workers of left youth organizations which attack and denounce caste and religion in the street, are privy to the 'khap panchayat' and heinous murder of Kottayam. Although they, followed by other organizations vying to be with them, may compete in their progressive pretences, none of them has the grit to obliterate the infallibility of caste. Worse than that, they are not prepared to even talk about it. At the time the Areekode incident happened, we had warned that such deliberate silence will lead to honour killings being repeated. If we are intent on burying this atrocity, which kills the honour of Kerala, every one should be prepared to stop political games, at least in Mannanam, and come to the serious part.