In a horrific incident of caste killing and communal violence in Udumalpet town of Tirupur district in Tamil Nadu in 2016, Shankar, a Dalit man, and his wife Kausalya, who belonged to the Thevar community, were attacked in broad daylight.
Shankar died on the spot while Kausalya was seriously injured. The CCTV footage of the heinous incident which later went viral will bring to light the shocking incident of honor killings initiated by Kausalya’s family and carried out by hired killers.
Shankar and Kausalya met in college, fell in love and married against their family’s wishes.
And, despite a landmark verdict in 2017 that sentenced her father and five others to death, the Madras High Court in 2020 overturned the Sessions Court verdict and denied her justice after acquitting her father and two others.
Kausalya’s fight is far away. She is a fierce activist raising her voice against caste violence and honor killings. She also opened a foundation in her husband’s name that works to uplift children from marginalized communities.
Now, a staunch follower of the teachings of BR Ambedkar and Periyar, he also learned to play. stranger, and married Shakti a stranger Artist in a self-respect ceremony.
Shakti is also an activist and raises her voice against caste atrocities. “At one point, he was fired, but the decision was later reversed. I resigned from the job as I felt it was my duty to the society,” says Kausalya.
Kausalya recently quit her government job and became an entrepreneur. She opened Jha, a beauty salon in Vellalur, Coimbatore, which was inaugurated by actor Parvathy Thiruvuthu a month ago.
“My government job did not allow me to become a full-time activist or engage in any kind of social work. My main fight is against honor killings, and I had to get permission every time I spoke to the media. It became difficult. Some of my friends suggested I go into the beauty business because I have always loved cosmetology,” she says HerStory.
Kausalya took a bank loan to start Jha after completing a “beautician’s course”, mortgaged her jewelry and took a loan from a friend to start Jha.
The salon, she says, will be “family-friendly without separate services for women, men and children.”
“We offer all beauty services, going beyond haircuts and styling. We also offer high-quality beauty products,” she said.
Besides donating some of the income from the business to social causes, Kausalya wants to encourage other survivors to start their own businesses.
“We are ready to provide our salon franchisees, the necessary training and all the support they need to stand on their own feet and start a new life,” she says.
Kausalya’s fight against honor killing continues. She says it’s good that there’s more awareness and conversations happening, but there’s still a way to go.
“It all comes down to gender equality. Parents should treat boys and girls equally from childhood. For this, parents should first understand how equality progresses in society,” she says.
Kausalya uses every available forum and stage to talk about honor killings, and believes that such incidents require sensitization at all levels, including the police.
She is demanding a law against honor killing in Tamil Nadu. “When an action is being taken against this heinous crime in Rajasthan, I hope the DMK government will implement it in the state as well,” she says.
Although there are many challenges in his way, his fight is relentless. Shankar Social Justice Fund helps victims of caste violence, and has saved many women from meeting a similar fate. Opposing inter-caste marriage has given them a safe place to live.
“My friends – followers of Periyar, Ambedkar and Marx – are my family. They support me every step of the way. We are related not by blood – but by reason – to do good for humanity,” says Kausalya.