By Matters India Reporter
Kottayam, Nov. 7, 2018: A court in Kerala has agreed to consider the murder of a Dalit Christian youth as an incident of honor killing, the first such case in the southern Indian state.
Pronouncing its order on a petition moved by Special Prosecutor C S Ajayan, Additional Sessions Judge K.G. Sanal Kumar on November 7 directed to fast track trial. The court had completed hearing on the petition a week ago.
The charge-sheet says that Kevin P. Joseph, a Dalit Christian from Kottayam, was kidnapped and murdered by a gang led by Sanu Chacko, brother of Kevin’s fiancée Neenu Chacko, on May 27 this year.
Sanu is the prime accused while his father Chacko is the fifth accused.
Kevin had met Neenu, a college student from a different Christian community, in Kottayam, a major town in Kerala. Two days before the murder, the two had filed a joint application for marriage registration at a sub-registrar office in Kottayam as Neenu’s family had fiercely objected to their marriage.
One account says the two had a civil marriage on May 24.
Neenu’s family later registered a complaint with the police stating that she had gone missing. Although the police summoned the two, Kevin and his cousin Anish left the girl back at her hostel as she confirmed that she intended to go with Kevin.
Thereafter, on May 27, an armed gang came to Kottayam in three vehicles and vandalized Kevin’s house in Mannanam. They forcibly took away Kevin and Anish, his relative. The abductors thrashed Anish severely and left him on the way.
The next day the 24-year-old youth’s body was found in a canal near Thenmala in Kollam. The charge sheet claimed he was forced to jump into a river, leading to his death.
The case will be heard on a day-to-day basis and the proceedings must be completed within six months after taking cognizance.
During the hearing, the prosecution argued that Kevin was murdered only because he was a Dalit Christian. The defendant’s side, on the other hand, argued that it should not be treated as ‘honor killing’ as both parties were Christians.
Listing the case as an instance of homicidal drowning, murder charges were clapped against all 14 accused in the case.
Keven’s family had blamed the local police’s laxity for the gruesome death of the youth. Neenu had filed a man missing case but the police allegedly ignored it.
Sub-inspector M S Shibu and his assistant Sunnymon of the Gandhinagar police station were suspended, while Kottayam district superintendent of police V.M. Mohammed Rafique was transferred following the incident.
The post-mortem conducted at the Kottayam Medical College hospital had found 16 cuts and bruises on Kevin’s body.
The findings of the police inquiry and the post-mortem say that Kevin drowned in the Chaliyakkara river while he was trying to escape from the gang.
But doubts remain whether Kevin died after falling in the river while running at night or if he was beaten by the goons and dumped in the river in the belief that he had died.