A court in Kerala described the murder of a Christian man as an “honour killing”. The 23-year-old Dalit was murdered by the bride’s father only three days after the wedding because he was opposed to the marriage. According to the court, caste prejudice was the cause of the crime.
“There is a tendency to deny the existence of the caste system,” said Fr Devasagayaraj M Zackarias, national secretary of the Office for Scheduled and Backward classes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), speaking to AsiaNews.
“Even more surprising is the fact that discrimination occurs in a country where the literacy rate is among the highest and the history of Christianity is long. We do not live the spirit of Christianity if we practice caste discrimination,” he bemoaned.
Kevin Joseph, the victim, was found dead in a canal near the town of Kollam on 28 May. Investigators found at least 15 injuries on his body, but the death was caused by drowning.
Just a few days earlier, 24 May, he had married Neenu Chacko, a 21-year-old Syriac Christian woman from a well-to-do family. Contrary to the marriage, and after several attempts to stop the wedding, some of the bride’s relatives abducted Kevin, tortured him and left him to die in the canal. The court indicted some 14 people in all.
The murder has shocked Kerala’s Christian community, one of India’s oldest, dating back to the evangelisation of the Apostle Thomas. In the State, Christians represent 20 per cent of the overall population of 34 million.
The caste system was abolished under the Indian Constitution. However, the young man’s death puts the spotlight on the deeply rooted discrimination in both society and the Indian Church.