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A shocking case of triple homicide stemming from India’s caste system.
By Sujeet Rajan
NEW YORK: The ugly side of India, including its obnoxious caste system, which is not understood by most people globally, often surfaces in the US, and perplexes the masses who come to learn of its connotations. That it would lead to murder, that too of family members, is bizarre.
But that is what happened on December 29, 2007, when a deranged grandfather from India, Subhash Chander, now 64, living in Oak Forest, Cook Country, Illinois, set fire to a building with 36 apartments in it, across the street from where he lived, razing it, killing three individuals: his about five months pregnant daughter, Monika Rani, 22, his son-in-law and Rani’s husband, Rajesh Arora, 30, and his grandson, Vansh Kumar, 3.
The entire second floor of the building located at 15859 S. Leclaire in Oak Forest collapsed, the building burnt down, but luckily there were no other casualties. The victims lived in an apartment on the second floor.
When police and firefighters arrived at the two-story building that night, residents were jumping from the balconies and flames were consuming the structure, reported the Chicago Tribune.
The reason for Chander’s hateful and murderous act: Rani married without his permission to a man who was deemed as beneath her family’s caste and social standing – a reality and phenomenon in India that finds its way into popular culture, including many a Bollywood film to the present day.
It didn’t make a difference to Chander that his daughter was happily married to a man whom she loved, had a grandson whose name ‘Vansh’ literally means to carry a family lineage forward; and that more happy times and joy were ahead in the new year with the birth of another grandchild.
Now, nearly seven years after that horrendous and bestial act, a jury last week convicted Chander of three counts of first-degree murder.
At the jury trial, the horrific details of Chander’s maniacal plot to murder his family again resurfaced: NBC Chicago reported witnesses saw Chander with a plastic container of gasoline on the first floor of the building shortly after the fire started, and a gas station attendant identified him as a customer who bought gas about two hours before the blaze, prosecutors said.
The Chicago Tribune reported that when police officers went to Chander’s apartment across the street from where his daughter and her family lived, they noticed a strong odor of gasoline and found a plastic pharmaceutical bottle, nearly a gallon in size, containing gasoline in a trash bin outside his apartment building, prosecutors said.
Video surveillance revealed a man matching Chander’s description using the same container to buy gas about two hours before the start of the fire, according to prosecutors. Multiple witnesses, including the gas station attendant, positively identified Chander in a physical lineup.
Chander and his son-in-law had a strained relationship throughout his marriage to Rani, which lasted a little more than three years, Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Milan told the Chicago Tribune in 2008.
“Apparently there’s been trouble going on between the two of them for years. It’s pretty clear from the defendant’s own statements and other evidence that we have that he did not like his son-in-law at all,” Milan said.
Illinois doesn’t have the death penalty. Chander, who has been in jail since January 1, 2008, faces up to life in prison, when he next appears in court for a pre-sentencing hearing in Markham on April 16.
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