Killing love with caste pride

In September, the homicide of a Vysya man married to a Reddy girl by her household introduced into focus as soon as once more the incidence of caste-related killings in Telangana. Serish Nanisetti, Marri Ramu and Abhinay Deshpande report on murders within the identify of honour and the state’s incapacity to curb them

On June 10, 2020, Avanthi Reddy stepped into the daylight, able to run away from dwelling and be reunited with her lover. While most individuals feared leaving their properties within the midst of a raging pandemic, daylight meant freedom and a brand new starting for the 23-year-old. Seven months earlier, Avanthi’s household had compelled her to stop her job, seized her cell phone, and locked her up in a room in her own residence. She had lastly managed to flee that day. Within two hours of eloping, she and her boyfriend Chinta Yoga Hemanth Kumar, 28, acquired married in a Santoshimata temple in Nalagandla.

But simply over three months later, tragedy struck the younger couple. On September 24, Hemanth was kidnapped and murdered, and his physique thrown right into a clump of bushes by the roadside within the neighbouring Sangareddy district of Telangana. According to Avanthi’s assertion to the Cyberabad police, the homicide was dedicated on the behest of her father, Donthireddy Laxma Reddy, and different relations. They have been livid that their younger daughter, who belonged to a household of nouveau riche landowners, had chosen as her husband a person from the Vysya group of merchants. Unable to persuade her to avoid Hemanth, they hatched a plot to kill him.

The information about Hemanth’s demise broke when Amrutha Varshini, 21, was starting her 140-km journey from Miryalaguda to Hyderabad. The discussions on TV of one more ‘honour killing’ vividly dropped at Amrutha’s thoughts the ugly particulars of her husband’s demise two years earlier by the hands of killers employed by her father. Amrutha is from the Vysya group; her husband Pranay was a Dalit.

Amrutha, then 5 months pregnant, was strolling with Pranay and her mother-in-law Premalatha in direction of their automobile parked exterior a hospital gate when the assailant struck. Amrutha heard a loud thud. “I turned and I could not find Pranay for a moment. An unidentified killer who had approached us from behind hit my husband with a machete on his neck,” she remembers. The CCTV footage confirmed the 2 ladies screaming for assist even because the killer, a tall man in a safari swimsuit, inflicted a second blow on Pranay bringing him to the bottom in a pool of blood. He died earlier than he may very well be given emergency care. That fateful day was September 14, 2018.

“It was shocking that some people from my community cursed me for marrying Pranay even after he was murdered. They even formed a ‘fans association’ in the name of my father, Maruthi Rao,” she says. Rallies have been taken out in assist of Rao, a high builder. Rao and the employed murderer have been later arrested by the police.

The police as counsellors

Caste-related killings should not new in Telangana. Citing the incidence of such crimes in Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, even earlier than Hemanth and Pranay have been murdered, Jharna Das Baidya, a Member of Parliament of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), made an impassioned plea in Parliament in 2017 for a particular regulation to curb such crimes. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there have been 28 ‘honour killings’ in 2014, 251 in 2015, and 77 in 2016 throughout India.

The 242nd Law Commission Report, too, sought a brand new regulation on ‘prevention of interference with the freedom of matrimonial alliances’. Following the Supreme Court ruling on March 27, 2018 in Shakti Vahini v. Union of India laying down preventive, punitive and remedial measures to stem such crimes, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory to all of the States. It ordered the States to create particular cells in “every district comprising the Superintendent of Police, the District Social Welfare Officer, and District Adi-Dravidar Welfare Officer to receive petitions/complaints of harassment of and threat to couples of inter-caste marriage”. The advisory acknowledged that these particular cells ought to create a 24-hour helpline to help {couples} in misery. In Hyderabad, the helpline is named ‘Bharosa (trust)’.

However, as a substitute of defending younger {couples}, the police is reportedly counselling them. Hemanth’s killing may have been averted, says Avanthi. “If the police official had not slammed the phone down when I called him up less than a month into my marriage, Hemanth would have been alive today. They refused to acknowledge the letter submitted by us about our safety (a few days after the marriage),” she says.

Avanthi says the police usually summoned the household for counselling. She narrates the time she was referred to as to the Chandanagar police station alongside with her in-laws on June 17. “There were more than 50 people from my parents’ side. They came in batches of 10, fell at my feet, spoke about ‘honour’ and asked me to come back home. This went on for five hours. Finally, close to midnight, I spoke to the police and left the station,” she remembers. Avanthi is now at her in-laws’ place. Her parental house is only a brief distance away.

“It isn’t just about caste. My family spoke of differences in financial status too, but that’s also not much (between our families). They kept telling me about paruvu (Telugu for ‘pride’ or ‘honour’),” says Avanthi.

About 50 km from Hyderabad is Gomaram, the ancestral village of Donthireddy Laxma Reddy. Dalits say they aren’t allowed to enter the temples of Shiva and Hanuman there. “We are not allowed into the temples,” says Errala Seenu who lives within the basti close by. Reddy’s home is adjoining to the temple. It is that this caste pride that Reddy dropped at Hyderabad and embossed in massive letters on his three-storeyed mansion.

Tricked into stepping out

On September 24, Avanthi was about to open the fridge to plan lunch for the day when she heard a loud knock on the door. Her kinfolk stood exterior, pleading with her to go dwelling with them. They tried to influence her to satisfy her mother and father. After 40 minutes of cajoling, they lastly satisfied Avanthi to satisfy her mother and father. But she insisted that Hemanth accompany her. Hemanth referred to as his mother and father too. “My aunts and cousins were so anguished that I felt they were reaching out to us,” says Avanthi.

The couple acquired dressed for the go to. When they have been about to get into their automobile, Avanthi’s kinfolk compelled them to get into the autos that they had are available. “They were rough with us,” she says displaying a bruise on her forearm.

Hemanth’s mother and father reached simply in time to see the automobiles leaving the home. When Hemanth tried to wave to them to get their consideration, Avanthi’s cousins pulled his hand into the automobile. But Hemanth’s mother and father noticed him and tried to observe the autos. However, they have been unable to tail the automobiles that zoomed away. Suspecting foul play, they alerted the police.

Meanwhile, worry gripped Avanthi when the automobiles turned in direction of the Nehru Outer Ring Road as a substitute of turning in direction of her mother and father’ home. She requested Hemanth to leap out of the automobile, and so they each did. Avanthi held Hemanth’s hand and ran barefoot shouting for assist. But the passers-by and commuters on the Gopanpally Tanda crossroads turned out to be mute spectators. In the chase that ensued, her maternal uncle Yugandhar Reddy grabbed Hemanth and pushed him into the automobile with the employed killers. The automobile sped away on the Outer Ring Road. Avanthi sat by the roadside wailing for assist, however nobody got here ahead. When her in-laws arrived, the household rushed to the Cyberabad Commissionerate. There they have been instructed to go to the close by Gachibowli police station since this was a case of kidnapping. Losing valuable time, Avanthi rushed to the Gachibowli police station to file a criticism. In lower than an hour, about 10 of her kinfolk have been detained and dropped at the police station, nevertheless it was too late to avoid wasting Hemanth. His physique was found a couple of hours later; he had been strangled.

The police may have prevented the homicide as a lot of the accused have been of their custody in lower than an hour of the kidnapping, says Avanthi. “They had enough time to save Hemanth, but they couldn’t.”

A tragic love story

Avanthi and Hemanth dated for eight years. She acquired to know him when his household moved from Guntur to Hyderabad to the identical space that she lived in: Chandanagar. In 2013, when Avanthi was in Class 11, a lecturer knowledgeable Avanthi’s father about her relationship with Hemanth. Her father warned her in opposition to assembly him. When she accomplished her engineering diploma, Donthireddy Laxma Reddy gifted his daughter an iPhone.

Avanthi joined an academic agency as a advertising coordinator in June 2019. The job entailed visits to colleges in Hyderabad and its neighbouring districts. “During that time, Hemanth and I used to travel together. It was the only time we got to spend together. He used to pick me up and drop me at the sites,” she says.

But their happiness was short-lived. On November 27, 2019, a ‘stranger’ photographed the couple whereas they have been collectively and despatched it to Donthireddy Laxma Reddy. “That day, when I returned home at 8.30 p.m., I saw my whole family gathered at home. They began quizzing me about our relationship. They snatched my mobile phone to check my messages and calls, but found none. I used to delete messages and call logs after every conversation. But they stumbled upon Snapchat, where they found our photographs,” says Avanthi.

That was her final day of freedom. Avanthi’s household compelled her to resign and keep at dwelling. They took away her cell phone and confined her to a room for seven months and 6 days earlier than she managed to flee and get married. “I was under house arrest. Whenever my cousins visited us, I would secretly take their phones and call Hemanth. We never spoke for more than 20 seconds,” she says.

While Avanthi was confined at dwelling, Hemanth, who owned an inside portray firm, approached a number of astrologers with their horoscopes. The books he had learn on astrology lie beside his garlanded {photograph} at dwelling.

In the primary week of June, three months after she final spoke to him, Avanthi referred to as Hemanth and requested him if he was taken with marrying her. She proposed three doable dates: June 5, June 6 or June 10.

“As June 5 was my parents’ wedding anniversary, I did not want to ruin their day. So, I stayed at home. The next day, everyone was at home. Finally, on June 10, I left a letter at home and somehow sneaked out and called Hemanth. We rushed to the Santoshimata temple in Nalagandla and got married within an hour. We had rented a house at TNGOs Colony the previous day, so we went there,” says Avanthi.

On discovering that their daughter was lacking, Avanthi’s mother and father lodged a kidnapping case in opposition to Hemanth. His mother and father have been referred to as in for questioning. The police requested Hemanth’s father Murali Krishna to give up his telephone.

On June 12, the newly-wed couple met Cyberabad Commissioner of Police, V.C. Sajjanar, who in flip advised the Chandanagar police to shut the case as each of them have been consenting adults. Following this go to, the police counselled the households and despatched them away. Later, Avanthi’s mother and father demanded that three properties which have been registered below her identify be transferred again to them.

Avanthi thought that her mother and father had reconciled to the wedding. However, her mother and father have been now plotting Hemanth’s homicide with the assistance of her uncle Yugandhar Reddy. Assassins have been allegedly employed for ₹10 lakh and have been paid ₹1 lakh upfront.

“As a part of their plan, they did a recce of the area for more than two weeks. On September 24, they kidnapped Hemanth and strangled him,” says Madhapur in-charge Deputy Commissioner of Police, M. Venkateshwarlu.

Reconstructing the crime, Venkateshwarlu says Yugandhar Reddy and the three employed assassins kidnapped Hemanth and drove him all the best way to Zaheerabad, which is greater than 100 km from Hyderabad. While returning to Hyderabad, they strangled him contained in the automobile and dumped the physique within the bushes.

An inconsolable Avanthi advised her father later that he might have “succeeded” in taking away her husband bodily from her, however he can’t take away her love for him or annul the wedding. “All your money could not buy my husband’s love for me,” she stated sobbing. “You lost your daughter as well.”

Awaiting trial

The state is straight supporting folks indulging in such heinous acts, says Lakshmaiah, convener of the All India Struggle Association for Annihilation of Caste Inequalities. To illustrate his declare, he offers the instance of the homicide of a younger Dalit girl, Ok. Sushrutha, and her four-month-old son, Devarsh, by her husband M. Ramesh, who belongs to a backward group, in Ghatkesar. The incident was reported on February 9, 2019.

Sushrutha and Ramesh fell in love and acquired married in 2015 in opposition to Ramesh’s mother and father’ needs. Police data counsel that Ramesh, influenced by his relations who disapproved of his marriage with a Dalit girl, started distancing himself from his spouse. The couple utilized for divorce. But after giving beginning to Devarsh, Sushrutha tried to reunite with her husband.

In the second week of February 2019, Ramesh referred to as his spouse and stated they might try to kind out their points. Sushrutha, who was residing with her mom, agreed to satisfy him. Her brother dropped her and her son at Uppal on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Ramesh picked them up from there and took them to a secluded place in Ghatkesar. Police say following an argument between the couple, Ramesh throttled his spouse and son to demise and burnt their our bodies with petrol.

Following the incident, Sushrutha’s relations approached the federal government looking for appointment of a particular public prosecutor to argue the case below the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The authorities appointed lawyer V. Raghunath because the particular public prosecutor within the case. “After examining the charge-sheet filed by the police, I found that the investigation was not done properly. I suggested to the Rachakonda Police Commissioner that a further probe be done,” Raghunath says.

Interestingly, the accused moved the High Court saying Raghunath was actively related with organisations supporting the sufferer and subsequently can’t be their lawyer. The High Court gave an interim order suspending his appointment. Though the writ petition was pending remaining adjudication, the federal government issued an order revoking Raghunath’s appointment.

“If this is not an example of the state supporting the accused in murders driven by caste hatred, what is,” asks Lakshmaiah. The state’s biased method will also be seen within the arrest of 4 of Sushrutha’s relations for finishing up starvation strikes in entrance of Ramesh’s home, he says. After demonstrating for 150 consecutive days, the 4 relations have been arrested and lodged in Warangal jail for every week.

Sandhya, president of the Progressive Organisation of Women, who’s preventing for the rights of ladies, feels it’s inaccurate to explain killings associated to inter-caste marriages as ‘honour killings’, as is the norm in India. The very time period ‘honour killings’ means we’re accepting the killers’ intentions and actions. “These murders are driven by class, caste and patriarchal hegemony,” she says.

Charge-sheets have been filed within the homicide circumstances of Pranay, Sushrutha and Naresh, however trials are but to start.

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