Eight months into her marriage, Kausalya saw her husband being hacked to death before she herself received a near-fatal blow on her head. The couple was attacked by a group of goons hired by Kausalya’s father, who loathed his daughter for marrying a Dalit.
The attack on Kausalya and Shankar at Udumalaipettai in Tamil Nadu in March 2016 was one of the many so-called “honor killings” that exposed the fault lines of the caste-crazy India. Kausalya survived the ordeal to declare a personal war on casteism. She is a well-known activist in Tamil Nadu, drawing inspiration from BR Ambedkar and ‘Periyar’ EV Ramasamy.
“I lost my husband to centuries-old casteism. Without annihilating caste, we cannot live as humans,” she said.
Kausalya met Shankar when they were studying in an engineering college at Pollachi. Kausalya’s father, who belonged to the dominant Thevar community, was outraged. The couple got married in a temple at Palani nevertheless.
They lived together for eight months, until that fateful day when they went shopping for the college day celebration. Kausalya’s father was hellbent on revenge. His henchmen cornered the couple in the street and hacked them. Shankar died. Kausalya spent several weeks in a hospital in Coimbatore with deep cuts to her head and hands.
Kausalya’s father, Chinnaswami, and five others were sentenced to death for the heinous attack.
Kausalya has moved on. There was a time when she mulled ending her life. She even went to her beloved’s grave with a vial of poison to commit suicide. Memories, however, gave her strength to take on the world.
She did not want to spend the rest of her lives in agony and pity. She chose the path of a fighter.
The woman with the close-cropped hair is a pillar of strength to many Dalit women around her. Clad in jeans and t-shirt, she does not bat an eyelid when she is faced with caste domination.
Kausalya is a crusader against “honor killings”. She has been associating with various Dalit outfits and associations such as the All India Democratic Women’s Association.
Powered by memories
Shankar’s legacy lives on in Kausalya’s works. “His memories make me carry on with my life,” she said. She fell back on the books left behind by her husband. She was introduced to a world of books written by stalwarts such as Ambedkar and Periyar.
She formed an organization in memory of her husband. Sankar Thanippayarchi Manram is a platform to work for the empowerment of Dalit women and the protection of victims of caste violence. The organization is mainly active in Coimbatore and Udumalaipettai yet its members are busy creating awareness against honor killings across Tamil Nadu.
Kausalya stood by Shankar’s family. She supports her aging father-in-law with her salary as a government employee. She goes to Shankar’s house once a month. She raised funds to build a proper house for Shankar’s father and two siblings.
She has her hands full. She joined a degree course. She also pursues her lessons in karate and music.