A gang of men kidnapped and brutally beat a Dalit Christian man to death after he married a Christian woman of a higher caste.
Kevin Joseph, a Christian who belonged to the Dalit caste in India, which is socially ostracized as the “untouchable” or lowest caste, was murdered on May 28, five days after marrying Neenu Chacko, who belonged to a higher caste known as Syrian Christians, according to Christian Today.
Chacko alleged that her family hired the gang and had Joseph murdered in an “honor killing” because he was of a lesser caste, given the belief that so-called Syrian Christians are descended from those of the upper Brahmin caste who St. Thomas the Apostle converted in A.D. 52.
Joseph’s father and Chacko also alleged that police refused to help when they reported his kidnapping. The gang kidnapped Joseph from his house in Kerala on Tuesday. Authorities found his body two days later in a ditch.
“Had the police acted in time, a life could have been saved and criminals could have been arrested promptly,” Chacko said, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Chacko claimed that police refused to respond to the report of Joseph’s kidnapping because they were occupied with preparing for a visit from the chief minister of Kerala, Pinaryi Vijayan.
She accused her brother, Shanu Chacko, and 11 other people of killing her husband.
Most of those who Neenu named belong to a youth wing of Kerala’s communist alliance called the Democratic Youth Federation of India. Police subsequently arrested some members of the youth branch in connection with the killing.
Reports of Joseph’s murder and the inaction of police sparked calls for protests against the police in Kottayam district from both congress and the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.
The government also reportedly plans to suspend the Kottayam district police chief over the scandal.
The killing and the accusations against the police further inflamed a recent controversy over allegations that leaders of the Communist Party of India use the police officers for their own ends.
The crime has also thrust the plight of local Dalit Christians and discrimination between castes, regardless of religion, into the spotlight once again.
“Caste feelings have aggravated in Kerala after left-wing parties, which worked as a bulwark against untouchability and caste discrimination, started pursuing power politics,” said lawyer and women’s advocate T.B. Mini, according to NCR.
The honor killing, and others like it, are a sign that dormant caste conflicts are arising once more in Kerala, according to Mini.
“If the current trend goes unchecked, peace will be threatened,” Mini said, according to NCR.
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