Each time a boast is heard about the eradication of caste, we find the lethal virus of caste hatred to have mutated and spreading around resulting in more bloodshed. What has come to be euphemistically called 'honour killing', real caste-based killing has come to be a normal event in Kerala, a state given to pretension of being secular and 'caste-free' and having acquired immunity against it as if it is an affliction that hit only north India and states like Tamil Nadu. Our social dignity has sunk so low that it will crash the moment a girl chooses a match from supposedly low caste section. And Keralites have started believing that the solution for such a 'mismatch' is to kill him or her as a recompense.
The latest victims of this despicable caste-based atrocity are 27-year old Aneesh, who was killed the other day in Kollalthara, and his recently married wife Haritha who was rendered widow by the father and uncle. The method of murdering Aneesh would clearly illustrate the extent of brutality to which casteist animus can go. And sadly enough, there is no reason to hope either that such heinous acts will come to an end any soon.
In another incident worth recalling – which is the first casteist murder of contemporary Kerala history - on March 22, 2018 in Areacode, Malappuram, a girl named Athira was killed by her own father. Although the life partner of his daughter was a soldier protecting the country's border, the factor that drove him to stab the daughter to death, while she was hiding under the bed for fear of death, was that he was a Dalit. Despite her desperate plea that her life was in danger, the police who bragged that they were there wearing police cap and khaki to protect her, sent her by force with the father. Eventually, during the trial in the criminal case two years thence, all the witnesses including the girl's mother and brother turned hostile resulting in the court acquitting the accused.
It was when Kerala was still in the shock of Athira's murder that on May 28, 2018, a Dalit youth Kevin P Joseph was killed by his wife Neenu's relatives. The conscience of Malayalam was boiling with the tears of Neenu. In the incident, which the court had termed the first honour killing of Kerala, some were punished but justice can still be described as lying far. For, the man whom Kevin's relatives including his widow had pinpointed as the mastermind of the crime, was acquitted as innocent. Thus, when the knives were being sharpened to kill and throw away Aneesh, the culprits would have been energised as much by such court verdicts as their caste-consciousness. However much people here may pretend to being progressive, it is caste that even after centuries sustains the power structure, social life and family relations - the ultimate fact underlined by these killings and the mind-set that justifies them in the garb of emotional responses.
As it happened following the deaths of Athira and Kevin, following Aneesh's murder also, clamour is being heard from all around for new laws to address the menace. The Supreme Court had even earlier given several clear directions to governments in this regard including that houses should be set up for the safe living of inter-caste couples and police protection should be ensured for them. But why can't we openly admit that It is not want of laws that leads to all this brutality but casteist subjugation and degradation of human consciousness?
Even in an era when the downtrodden classes are to fight unitedly against exploitation and oppression, there is the dangerous trend of even those at the lower rungs of caste structure putting on casteist hatred as a decoration - which the savarna hegemons have been nurturing – taking arms against kindred communities. The reason why even backward communities – who for centuries were degraded by upper castes as much as Dalits were - deem it an unacceptable defiance for their son or daughter to marry a Dalit, is that the communal-casteist mentality based on racial purity has corroded them too.
Let us not forget that the reason why caste murders spread in northern states is want of vigilance in nipping it in the bud. This is a tragic malady that cannot be cured merely by clever jugglery or sweet verbiage. The longer the delay in finding an anecdote, the greater the number of lives this lethal virus may destroy. Kerala is a land where Sree Narayana Guru had taught that no one should ask what one's caste is. This is the soil on which were built walls and edifices of renaissance. The only way to to prevent the repetition of atrocious murders is to cut off and throw away caste, not from the name alone but from the mind of each one of us.