Days after a Dalit inter-caste couple in Thoothukudi were brutally murdered in their beds, the father of the murdered woman has allegedly admitted to committing the crime. Pictures from the crime scene show horrific images of blood and chopped limbs. A machete was used, according to the police, to saw into the wrists and necks of husband and wife in the wee hours of Thursday.
But while the 55-year-old accused Alagar claims to have committed the crime alone as an act of vengeance against the couple for marrying out of caste, relatives of the murdered man claim that hired assassins were involved.
The victims Solairaj and Jothi were both 24-year-old and had fallen in love while working in a salt pan. While Solairaj belonged to the Paraiyar community of Scheduled castes, Jothi belonged to the Pallar community. When Jothi's family opposed the marriage, she left her house to get married to Solairaj in April. Even then, her father issued threats and warned the couple of violence if they went through with the wedding.
The police on being informed, let the father off with just a warning. The couple got married and Jothi was three months pregnant at the time of the murder.
And while the injuries to the victims were fatal and barbaric, the police maintain that it is a crime by a single man.
"At around 4am on Thursday morning, Alagar has entered the house where the couple was sleeping in the porch. There was no electricity. He used an 'Aruval' (machete) to murder them," says Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan. "He has confessed to the crime and says that he did it alone," he adds.
Alagar has been booked for murder and under the SC/ST Act. However, relatives of Solairaj remain uneasy.
"There are some eyewitnesses in the village who say that a group of men were seen fleeing from the spot on bikes. We do not think that a 55-year-old could have easily overpowered two young people this way," says Antony, Solairaj's uncle. "Infact the perpetrator has not even entered through the door. He has jumped into the house. We are not very satisfied with the investigation," he adds.
Moreover, Solairaj's relatives point out that the crime could have been prevented if the couple had got police protection or the father was detained when they first approached authorities.
"But they didnt' specifically ask for protection," says the Superintendent of Police. "And in such cases we usually just let people off with a warning," he adds.
But anti-caste activists point out that the police's action are contradictory to directives from the Madras High Court. After the ruling in the Manmeet Singh vs State of Haryana case in 2016, the Madras HC ordered for the formation of a Special cell in all districts to handle matters concerning inter-caste couples. The state government even filed a status report to the court in July 2018, confirming the establishment of the same.
"The cell is required to give protection to couples who had concerns on safety and to provide counselling to the parents involved," says Pandian, the director of Social Awareness Society for Youth (SASY). "The police is in contempt of court. If they had acted as per the rules, the couple would have been alive."