In Tamil Nadu town, fundamentalists play moral cops, even kill to have way

Over a fortnight ago, 35-year-old Mumtaz was killed by a group of young men in Melapalayam in south Tamil Nadu.

They murdered her when she was returning from a local beedi company after collecting leaves and tobacco. They accosted her on the road, warned her against a affair she was allegedly having with a married man and the local manager of a beedi company.

She just told them to mind their own business.

They first threw stones at her. Then, some of them came closer and stabbed her. Mumtaz died on the spot.

In Melapalayam, which the police say has been a hotbed of fundamentalism with a strong presence of Al Umma, there has been little outrage.

"Many in the town believe that Mumtaz deserved it," said Abdul Subahan (18), the district secretary of the student wing of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazham, a political outfit which police think is linked to Al Umma.

Residents of the town say Mumtaz had been given "sufficient warning" to keep away from her "paramour." But she had not.

Her sister Nabeena said: "People in the town are saying she deserved it. We don't know what to think."

Her mother, Zubeida Hussein, who had left her daughter a few months ago after she began receiving threats, said: "Our heads bow in shame."

The mob murder on March 9 by the self-styled 'moral police' was not the first honour killing in this small town. Mumtaz is just the first woman victim.

In August 1997, Selvakumar, a homeopath doctor, was killed for having "relationships" with Muslim women. The same day, 16 Al Umma sympathizers hacked to death two RSS workers who were karsevaks in the Babri Masjid demolition.

In 2001, Sathyaseelan was murdered by nine Al Umma members for "having contacts with a Muslim woman."

... contd.

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