Knife attack on Indian student an 'honour killing', say activists

CHENNAI, INDIA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A daylight attack on a newly married couple near a bus stop in the southern India, in which the husband was killed, was an "honour killing" carried out because the groom was from a lower caste, said activists, demanding swift police action.

On Sunday, 22-year-old engineering student V. Shankar and his wife Kousalya were attacked by three men armed with sickles as the couple waited to board a bus in the textile town of Tirupur in the state of Tamil Nadu, police said.

Shankar died on his way to the hospital. Kousalya was undergoing treatment for her injuries, deputy superintendent of police N. Vivekanandan said. "This is not an ordinary murder," P. Sampath of the campaign group Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The bold attack happened because a young boy married a girl who was from a different community, a higher one in the social ladder. It should be investigated accordingly."

Despite India's growing cosmopolitanism, discrimination against low-caste communities persists.

The intermingling of caste and religion remains a taboo in Indian marriages - not only among rural populations, but even for educated, well-off families in urban India.

"A section of youth are made to feel that it is their responsibility to defend the caste honour by controlling women in their families and communities," said activist Vasuki of the All India Democratic Women's Association.

"And the killing is supposed to be a 'lesson' to other girls in the community," she said, referring to women who choose to marry someone outside of their community.

Government figures show that 18 "honour killings" were reported in India in 2014. Activists say the crime is under-reported and many such killings are covered up and made to look like suicides.

"In Tamil Nadu, we have documented 81 honour killings since July 2013," said A. Kathir of the non-governmental organisation Evidence.

But according to the government of Tamil Nadu, no "honour killings" have taken place in the state in the last five years.

Activists said Sunday's attack was a clear example.

Shankar, from the low caste Dalit community, and Kousalya were students at a private engineering college when they fell in love. The couple married eight months ago despite opposition from the girl's upper caste family.

In her statement, Kousalya told police that the attack was carried out at the behest of her parents, Vivekanandan said.

The police said they had registered a case of murder and a case under the prevention of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. A manhunt has been launched for the three men who attacked the couple who fled the scene by motorcycle.