TIRUPUR: From being a hapless victim of honour killing to transforming into an activist for those rendered mute by society's constraints, Kausalya Sankar's journey since in the past year and a half has been one of strife and grief but also grit and determination. Starting Sankar Thanipayirchi Mandram to educate young Dalit children about their rights and responsibilities is another new facet of her constantly-evolving life.
Ask her the reason behind her venture, she has a simple answer -- I do not want the murder of another Sankar. However, the path that led to this strand of thought had not been an easy one. Having witnessed the love of her life being murdered by a mob had left the woman depressed and prone to suicidal tendencies. However, the support she received -- mostly from complete strangers -- had been overwhelming. Many reached out to offer condolences and express their anguish over the turn of events.
Much more came bearing gifts, of borrowed wisdom and books. It was then that Kausalya was introduced to ideologies of Periyar, enlightened about the case for human rights and women empowerment. She wanted children to be more exposed to such liberal schools of thought from a very young age. "With so many noble hearts coming forward to help me, I realised I had to stand up for the people who did not have a voice. I went through a tragedy that no other person should face but that does not mean I will sit and cry and waste my life. I realised that I needed to fight for justice, to fulfil Sankar's dreams. I needed to stand up so that there were no more murders in the name of caste," she explains.
In the search for a means to empower young children with a sense of freedom and individuality, Kausalya put her trust on the art form common in the community -- parai. To be able to teach students at the Sankar Thanipayirchi Manram, Kausalya learnt to play the drum herself. "Parai is a means to achieve social and individual freedom. She understood that idea and started learning to play it," narrates Sakthi of Nimirvu Kalaiyagam, Coimbatore. Kausalya's struggle to get to this place of social responsibility has had many admirers and supports in the past many months. Sakthi is one among them. "There has been an amazing change since I saw her a few months ago. Her approach towards life and issues have changed to a great level because she has been reading a lot," he surmises.
"The fragile girl, who stood helplessly on March 13, 2016, has now transformed into a woman of iron will and strength," comments 'Evidence' Kathir, a man who stood by Kausalya in her battle for justice. "She is an example of a woman, who has undertaken a tough journey in her stride. For a 20-year-old, the courage she has is phenomenal. Yet, she is very soft spoken and has a loving heart. When someone asked her once if she would have been this courageous if this incident had not happened -- if Sankar was alive -- she said she married Sankar only because she had courage. From a victim, she has now reached a place, where she can be called an activist like us," he declares.
According to Kolathur Mani of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, "I see Kausalya as a revolutionary. Her fight against her parents needed immense strength. She doesn't support the death sentence but she wants those behind Sankar's killing to be punished. After Ilavarasan's death, Divya totally shrunk into herself. In Gokulraj's case, Swathi came to the station, reported the incident and also identified the people involved. Kausalya, however, overcame her tragedy and has been fighting for justice. This kind of transformation in the mindset of victims is a huge step forward. In this, Kausalya has set a path for all victims of honour crime."
The sentence in Sankar's murder case is set to be delivered by the Tirupur district and sessions court on December 12. The sentence could very well mark a milestone in Kausalya's fight against the scourge of honour killing and strike a blow against caste discrimination in Tamil Nadu. One can only hope.