Vanniyar girls, who married Dalit men in the area, have come out openly in support of the struggle seeking justice for Dalit boy Ilavarasan’s death and asserted that caste barriers should not come in the way of marrying anyone they love.
One of them, Manjula, a woman who belongs to the Gowda community in Karnataka and married a Dalit man five years ago, has been playing a key role in the fight for justice.
Speaking to Express, Manjula said, “Love is something personal between two persons; no one has the right to interfere.” Having married Govindaraju, a Dalit five years ago despite opposition from her parents, she said she was leading a happy life. “I am very happy; my husband and relatives are taking good care of me. My two daughters are proof of my happiness,” she said.
“On seeing how happy I and my family are, my parents accepted my husband,” she added.
She said, in order to eradicate the caste system in our society, inter-caste marriages must be encouraged.
Denying the allegations of caste-based parties that Dalit men marry caste Hindu girls for money, she said it was nothing but false propaganda. Another Vanniyar woman, Yasotha, who married a Dalit man, Chinnathambi, said her parents were initially upset when she eloped, but later accepted her husband.
“I eloped with Chinnathambi in 1986 and married him. My parents were initially happy, but later accepted my husband. We have been leading a happy life and have two daughters.”
She said, “No one can destroy love. If we try to suppress it, it will resist even more energetically.”
Chinnathambi’s brother Ravi is also married to a Vanniyar girl, Gowri, who is in the forefront of the battle for justice for Ilavarasan.
According to statistics from the social welfare department, 46 intercaste couples have been honoured by the government in the area.
While marriages between Caste Hindus and Dalits are in the spotlight, inter-caste marriages between Dalits and Scheduled Tribes are also quite common.
An official source in the department said, “In Dharmapuri district, inter-caste marriages are common between Vellala Gounders and Scheduled Tribes. Most of the inter-caste marriages are registered in Pappireddipatti block where the Vellala Gounders are living in large numbers.”
“Most of the inter-caste marriages in this area are happening with the consent of parents. Love marriages and inter-caste marriages take place among the people who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood,” the source added.