“I’m not a coward. I’m Periyar’s Granddaughter”, Kausalya said at the of inauguration of Shankar Social Justice Trust on his Death anniversary this year.
On March 13 2016, eight months after getting married, a self-respect couple (Shankar and Kausalya) both students of an engineering college near Pollachi, was brutally attacked by an armed gang because the girl’s family did not approve of her marrying a Dalit. While Shankar had succumbed to the injuries, Kausalya sustained head injuries.
She did survive. She not only survived but also rose to become a strong prominent self-respect anti-Caste activist of Tamil Nadu.
“I feel hopeless when I think about it. But I also feel that there shouldn’t be another Kausalya and Shankar. So, I have to do something about it”, Kausalya told in a documentary for Al Jazeera. On Shankar’s death anniversary she said “On this day I pledge on the name of Shankar that I’ll work relentlessly to create my generation with the ‘Anti-Caste Tamil Liberation’ ideological conscience”.
Kausalya being the prime witness, Trial court sentenced six men, including Kausalya’s father, to death. Reacting to the judgement, Kausalya said “I do have a difference with capital punishment, but I still believe this judgement is likely to create a sense of fear among those with caste hatred”. She is also very hopeful that the verdict will lead to the enactment of a separate law for Caste Killing, and have been relentlessly propagating the campaign.
Being a survivor of caste violence herself, she has been in constant support with other survivors of such violence. She met both Divya and Amrutha who had lost their partners in caste killing. “If all you ever wanted was to be true and devoted to the love that you felt in your heart, our society still ruthlessly stands in your way. This is for one reason: the hatred created by the caste system. Our deepest instincts may be ones of warmth and tenderness, for a life lived with the person we love. It’s an instinct that our parents can never understand, Amrutha”, she wrote to Amrutha. She has also been presiding over several self-respect marriages across the state.
On December 9th, in a self-respect marriage at the Head office of Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, Kausalya married Sakthi who is a Parai artist. Over their wedding, the self-respect couple pledged to fight together for annihilation of caste and for the formation of an act against caste killing. After the vows, the couple paid tributes to Periyar by garlanding his statue. They also joined other artists and performed parai together.
Kausalya had survived the odds and abuses all the while, only by rejecting victimhood. The marriage was also not an exception. “Kausalya kept on continuing her fight against caste discrimination, but never reduced herself to any pain. She has challenged the Brahmanical traditional beliefs and practices through her self-respect marriage and had actually become an epitome of self-respect marriage”, says Sreeja, Joint Secretary of ASA-HCU who was also the first Dalit woman Students’ Union Presidential candidate of the university.
She was being abused and threatened by various caste organizations and individuals, ever since she allied with Ambedkarite, Periyarist and Marxist movements in taking forward Anti-Caste politics. Once the news about her marriage spread across, social media was flooded with casteist and sexist abuses. E.R.Eshwaran, leader of a Caste Hindu party, in his press note said that “It is quite shocking to see Kausalya, who once told that she has dedicated her life to Shankar’s love and cause, getting married within two years of Shankar’s death”.
Nevertheless, the couple was showered with love, support and greetings by Ambedkarites, Marxists, Periyarists and other like-minded people all over the social media. DMK’s leader M. K. Stalin in his press note said “I’m happy to see Kausalya, who didn’t see the caste violence on her as a personal grief but as a socio-structural problem, choose Parai artist Sakthi as her partner”. Kathir, Founding Director of Human Rights Organization EVIDENCE who has also been a strong support for Kausalya since the day of atrocity, in his facebook post said “Kausalya has given three important lessons to the society through her journey for justice even at the cost of her own family, her struggle to fulfill Shankar’s dream for upliftment of his family and society, herself being a role model for other women.”
Faseeh Ahmed, Unit President of SIO-HCU says “The prevailing Hindutva never accept the self-existence or assertiveness of any woman. Woman never have self-agency. People who were always vocal about this agency were also taking the same (Hindutva) position when it came to Hadiya case.” That is why women like Kausalya or Hadiya who reject victimhood and step out of their caste Hindu households become the real threat to the Caste Hindu structure and are at the worst receiving ends of caste Hindu bigots.