Chennai: Police on Monday detained four of the suspects accused of hacking to death a young Dalit man who married an upper caste girl, who herself narrowly survived the brutal assault in a Tamil Nadu town.
Political parties denounced the chilling murder of V. Sankar, 23, in Udumalaipettai town in Tirupur district on Sunday afternoon and what they said was the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.
Sankar had married Kausalya, 19, who is from the politically influential Thevar community, eight months ago.
CCTV visuals showed about six men attack Sankar, a third year engineering student, with sickles and machetes when he and Kausalya were walking on a crowded street.
The killers apparently came on two motorcycles and appeared to have been shadowing the couple. Before escaping, the killers also thrashed the young woman, leaving her badly wounded. But she miraculously survived.
Sankar bled to death on his way to a hospital.
The attack was witnessed by scores of people, many of whom stood frozen by terror. Others fled the scene, police officials said.
Speaking from her hospital bed, a dazed Kausalya blamed her own family for the cold-blooded murder.
Her father C. Gopalasamy surrendered in a court, saying he was scared and not because he was involved with the killing in any way. He was remanded in judicial custody till March 21 and taken to the Central Jail in Madurai.
Sankar's family said he and his wife had just finished shopping when they were targeted. Police said Kausalya's family was unhappy over her marriage outside the caste.
Kausalya told a Tamil news channel that she would be able to identify the killers. She said she and her husband were threatened earlier too by a few men.
She blamed her parents for the murder.
Velu Samy, the distraught father of Sankar, alleged that Kausalya was abducted by her parents once and locked up in their house.
It was only after a police case was filed that she was allowed to return to her husband.
He said Sankar and Kausalya used to get frequent death threats.
Velu Samy said he had felt that his son would be eventually accepted by the girl's family. "But that did not happen. We have lost him."
Police detained four suspects for the murder. Kausalya had reportedly recognised two of her attackers from the photographs and videos shown to her.
Police and the administration had a tough time persuading Sankar's family to take his body for cremation after the post-mortem examination on Monday afternoon.
The angry family and other Dalits protested against what they said was police inaction vis-a-vis the killers.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has, meanwhile, sought the response of the Tamil Nadu government within a fortnight over the murder.
Political parties preparing for assembly elections in Tamil Nadu in May condemned the incident but mostly chose not to harp on the caste issue. Dalit and Left groups have vowed to hold protests across the state this week.
The Thevar community to which the young woman belonged is closely aligned with Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK party.
A party spokeswoman denied the murder was the result of caste conflict. "It is a problem between two families, not between two castes," she said in Chennai.