Tragedy turned her into a fighter


My first post on this blog was about a horrific murder which exposed the casteist underbelly of India. It happened exactly a year ago near my town. Sanker, a Dalit youth was hacked to death in broad daylight for daring to love and marry a girl who was born to a higher caste. The girl had severe injuries too but survived. The attack was ordered by members of the girl’s family. Severely traumatized, the girl tried to kill herself by consuming poison but was saved.

Now the happy news. The girl in question is slowly turning over a new life.

Following her attempt to take her own life, she was counseled by her in-laws, several NGOs and volunteers. “They told me dying was not the solution. I was told to live through this caste violence to prove the point that I wanted to. I decided that I will make the dreams that my husband and I had, come true,” says Kowsalya. Now, a year later, that is what she has done.

After her suicide bid, she had moved back in with Sankar’s family, where she initially started taking tuitions for children from 1st standard to the 12th standard. “I wanted to do something to remove my mind from what happened. Plus, there was nobody to teach these children from the locality English. So I decided that I should do it,” says Kowsalya. But what she thought would be a favour to the students, turned out to be of great help to her, when it came to cracking the defence ministry exams.

Image credit - Indian Express

Kausalya with her husband’s grandmother in Komaralingam. Image credit – Indian Express

Today, Kowsalya is a revenue assistant with the Ministry of Defence. She cannot disclose her current location because of security problems. She remains a crucial witness in the murder of her husband and even appeared in court on November 9, two days before she joined work.

But getting the job was not enough for people to accept her. The security guards looming around her made it difficult for people to approach her. Her colleagues soon became weary of this new entrant. “When they learned about my past, several of them were scared they will be attacked if they spoke to me. It took some time to reassure them, that it won’t happen,” she says. With this job under her belt, she gave the job offered to her by TN government under compassionate grounds to Sankar’s father. Veluchamy (Sankar’s father) now works as a cook in the Adi Dravida department and earns close to Rs.12,000 a month.

With Sankar’s family financially independent, Kousalya has set out to fulfill Sankar’s other dreams. She has, with the money received from the Government and philanthropists, reportedly built a proper house and is also doing a BSc computer science degree through long distance. “I even stay independently now,” Kowsalya, says proudly. “I didn’t know I had this strength in me. I used to be a shy girl when I met Sankar. The first brave step that I ever took was when I left my home to marry him,” she says, laughing.

 

Sankar stood by their relationship, despite knowing that his life was under threat. “My father and relatives offered him Rs.10 lakh to leave me. Even then, he told them my ‘paapu’ is more important to me than any money. I will not leave under any circumstances,” says the teenager. “Now, I do not feel like he has left me. Even today, if I miss him I simply read all our Whatsapp conversations and it immediately lifts my mood. I know he is with me and he gives me strength to motivate people to leave this ugly caste system behind,” she says.

Kowsalya has also taken it upon herself to give speeches across the state on caste violence. She has so far, spoken in Coimbatore, Madurai, Chennai, Sivakasi and Salem about the evils of the caste system.

“What happened to me shouldn’t happen to anyone else,” she says emphatically. “Girls who are caught up with caste values their families force upon them, must know that they should follow their heart. Never compromise on what is right for someone else’s satisfaction. You only get one life to be yourself,” she says.

People like Kowsalya are beacons of hope for a better India.

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