India police arrest father-in-law over 'honour killing'

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The father-in-law of a lower-caste student brutally hacked to death in a suspected "honour killing" in India has been arrested, police said on Tuesday (March 15).

Three men armed with sickles and sharp weapons attacked the 22-year-old student from the lowest Dalit caste and his wife on a crowded street in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on Sunday, killing him and seriously injuring her.

The woman's father and uncle were among five people arrested over the assault, which was apparently motivated by her decision to marry outside her own caste, police said.

"We have arrested five accused and are looking for five more," A. Dhavamani, an investigating officer, told AFP.

"Three of them were involved in the attack, including the woman's uncle," he said, adding that the others have confessed to conspiracy to kill the victim.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the woman's mother was also among those arrested, although this could not immediately be confirmed.

Her father surrendered to police late on Monday and was formally arrested.

Police said the 19-year-old woman married the Dalit engineering student eight months ago in defiance of her family, who are from the higher Thevar caste.

Marriage outside caste or religion still attracts strong censure in parts of India and can even lead to so-called honour killings, carried out to protect family pride.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are a historically marginalised community who have faced centuries of discrimination in India.

The couple had reportedly faced threats from her family before Sunday's attack that was captured on CCTV, footage from which showed three men on a motorbike stop and attack them as they walked along a crowded street.

There are no India-specific figures on honour killings available, but United Nations statistics say 1,000 out of the 5,000 such killings every year are in India.

India's Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that those involved in honour killings should face the death penalty.