A brutal murder has left Tamil Nadu shaken, both because of its gruesome nature as well as the fact that it showed an extremely violent manifestation of casteism. Last week, a 13-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly beheaded by her neighbor in front of her mother's eyes near Attur in Tamil Nadu's Salem district. Dinesh Kumar, who belonged to a higher caste, allegedly shouted caste slurs as he attacked the young girl and decapitated her using a sickle. The victim is reported to have accused Kumar of making sexual advances towards her.
A police officer said that Kumar has been arrested and sent to jail and that the probe is still on. A case of murder has been registered against him and he has also been charged under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
The victim's relatives have also accused Kumar of sexual misconduct. According to reports, the teenager had rejected the accused's advances and also informed her mother.
The police dismissed media reports that the accused was mentally disturbed.
The victim was studying at a nearby government school and was the last of three siblings. Her parents are said to be labourers.
The murder has sparked outrage across Tamil Nadu, with several celebrities demanding justice for the victim and voicing their anger against caste violence.
"A 13 year old girl was allegedly beheaded in front of her mother by a man who she rejected. The victim was from an oppressed caste and the killer from a higher caste. This barbarism needs to be addressed. Caste cannot take society down to its depths. Enough," tweeted actor Siddharth.
Actor-turned politician Khushboo Sundar called the murder a result of a "barbarian" and "feudal" mindset.
"Enough is enough..no more caste or communal based barbarism will be tolerated..what and who gives them the courage to do such ghastly acts?? Does their blind faith or barbarian feudal mindset allows this???" she said on Twitter.
Speaking to NDTV, vocalist TM Krishna pointed out that sexual harassment could be a way of asserting caste power.
"Sexual harassment is also about caste, power and religion, whether. It appears this guy (Kumar) abused them and their caste. It is part of a larger hierarchical power structure. Sexual harassment is the way people show that power. Whether it is a religious person or someone with caste pride, they all do the same thing. We live in a casteist society and we have to wake up fast," he told NDTV.
Film director Vignesh Shivan, too voiced his outrage and tweeted, "We are living in hell with monsters like this still roaming around! Everyday somewhere , something like this happens! All we r able to do is tweet,mourn , feel sad ! Nothing more than that!".