Nandini’s brutal murder and society’s reaction to it exposes its caste bias.
The highly-rated Netflix crime dramas Narcos and Breaking Bad would pale in comparison with the high-profile political drama being played out in the state of Tamil Nadu over the past few months. Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa fell sick, got admitted to Apollo Hospital late in the night and for the next couple of months there was no information on her illness or the treatment provided. The infamous “Mannargudi Mafia” which even disallowed the governor from meeting her, also managed to successfully hide her from the public eye. The media too was unable to access her or get any details about her treatment during the period. The Apollo press releases were equally evasive.
In a twist of events, Apollo one day suddenly announced that she had recovered fully and will be discharged any time, which was only followed by the news of her “sudden” death. There was utter confusion in even announcing the time of her death. The whole situation became a breeding ground for many conspiracy theories, one of which suggested that the former chief minister was dead long before the official announcement. None other than V.K. Sasikala directed this suspense thriller. And now she is stage-managing the ouster of the chief minister O. Panneerselvam.
Mr Panneerselvam, who had meekly tendered his resignation at her behest, finally gathered some courage after meditating at Jayalalithaa’s memorial and accused Chinnamma of hatching a conspiracy against him and forcing him to resign. His revolt has sent the social media in a tizzy with many hilarious memes doing the rounds: “Panneer should be thankful to Sasi for not sending him to Apollo”.
Amidst all this drama a horrifying incident failed to grab the media’s attention. On January 14, the decomposed body of a teenager with an underwear stuffed in her mouth was found in a well. The teen was identified as Nandini, a dalit from Ariyalur district in Tamil Nadu. This incident happened during the time when the Tamilians were searching for their identity through Jallikattu.
Nandini had quit school to work as a daily wage labourer in order to support her family. Manikandan, the local village Romeo, pursued her in true filmy style and managed to stay in a relationship with her for a year. Nandini soon became pregnant with his child and asked him to marry her. Manikandan refused and insisted on aborting the foetus, which led him along with his friends, to rape and murder the girl.
Although the culprits were arrested, the intermediate issues leading up to their arrest clearly exposed the casteist face of the crime. The police had repeatedly neglected requests by Nandini’s mother to file an FIR, which was eventually done 17 days after her body was discovered. They even stooped to taunting Nandini’s appearance and character. By refusing to lodge the complaint, the police gave time to the culprits. Manikandan belonged to upper caste and was also a functionary of a right-wing organisation, Hindu Munnani.
There was nationwide outrage over justice for Nirbhaya and the state of Tamil Nadu erupted over the murder of Swathi. But sadly nobody spoke for Nandini, the dalit.
The wells of Ariyalur have a past of witnessing the murder of four dalit children on May 5, 1980, when an upper caste maniac electrocuted them. When it comes to man-woman relationships, Indian society can be accused of outdated morals. The regressive nature of most television debates proves that this country is still stuck in the Middle Ages. On top of this, Ramagopalan, the founder-leader of HM, claimed that the girl had mutilated her genitals with a blade!
Nandini’s brutal murder and society’s reaction to it exposes its caste bias. P.S. A special thanks to Vincent Kathir of Evidence for the fieldwork he has undertaken to unearth the realities behind the rape and murder of Nandini.