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27-year-old Suresh Kumar had been in a relationship with a Vellalar woman, and according to Suresh’s family, the woman’s parents opposed their union.

A 27-year-old Adi Dravidar man from Tamil Nadu was found lying unconcious in a field on Sunday, November 07 near Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district. He was later declared dead at a goverment hosptial nearby. While the police have claimed that the man died by suicide, the man’s relatives have alleged that he was murdered for being in love with a Vellalar woman, a dominant caste. The young man’s family has refused to accept the body unless a caste-motivated murder case is registered. The Pudhupaandi police, Suresh’s family say, are yet to file a First Information Report (FIR).

Suresh Kumar belonged to the Sambavar caste and was from Thovallai area near Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district. He had been in love with a young woman from Katthuputhur while in college. However, her parents were opposed to the relationship because of Suresh’s caste.

In the complaint filed by Suresh’s elder brother Suman at the Pudhupaandi police station, he says that their family had also been aware of the relationship. He adds that in September this year, the young woman had phoned Suman to ask him to come to her home with his family to ask about her marriage to Suresh. She’d also allegedly said that her family was looking for another groom for her. He further writes in his complaint that the woman had told him on the phone that she’s aware that her family will not agree because they are Vellalar and Suresh is Dalit. She allegedly asked Suman and his family to come regardless and if her parents opposed the match, she’d leave with Suman’s family. Suman writes that he’d told her that he’d discuss this matter with his family and get back to her.

On September 18, Suman alleges, an advocate from Thovallai called him to say that the young woman’s relatives wanted to speak to him and his family. Advocate Palani asked them to come to his home. This meeting was attended by Suresh and fifteen of his relatives as well as the young woman’s relatives, including her two elder brothers and mother, says Suman in the complaint. “The young women’s relatives refused to agree to the marriage. They said ‘we are Vellalars, you are Parayars, lower caste,’” he writes. “Outside the house, her brothers threatened me saying ‘your brother will be a corpse if he talks to our sister again.’”

Speaking to TNM, Suresh’s younger brother who did not wish to be named, also recalls this exchange and threats by the young woman’s family.

Suman says that a month after this meeting, he’d asked Suresh if he was still in contact with the young woman; he had said that he wasn’t. On November 7, the Pudhupaandi police came to their home accompanied by the woman’s brothers. The police said that a complaint had been filed against Suresh by someone from Kattuputhur, and that he had to go to the station for questioning. According to Suman, Suresh had told the police to go on to the station and that he’d follow them. He left for the station at 1 pm on his motorbike, notes Suman.

When his brother didn’t return until 5 pm, Suman says that they checked in person at the station but he wasn’t there. A search party comprising Suresh’s family, relatives and acquaintances spread out. Suresh’s younger brother tells TNM that Suman spotted the motorbike by the roadside, and when he searched in the area, he found Suresh lying unconscious. “There were injuries on his neck and back. His feet were also wounded as if he’d been dragged along the ground.” The younger brother says that four private hospitals refused to admit Suresh. Finally, he was taken in at the Asaripallam Government Medical College Hospital, where he was declared dead. “The police station is insisting that Suresh never came there. They are threatening us, saying ‘your brother is dead, leave it at this,’” the younger brother adds, further alleging casteist abuses at the police station. He also made several allegations to TNM, including that the police have refused to file an FIR to date demanding that the family first collect Suresh’s body, that the young woman’s family was given police protection after Suresh’s death, that the family has now absconded and that they have the support of local politicians, who are also from the Vellalar community.

He added that his family is resolute in not accepting Suresh’s body unless a murder investigation is opened. He also insists that his brother was not struggling with suicidal thoughts before his death and is sure that Suresh was murdered.

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