A young widow fights her father to avenge her ‘lower’ caste hus­band’s hon­our killing

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon

Am­rutha Varshini watched Peru­malla Pranay Ku­mar, her 24-year-old hus­band, hacked to death with a ma­chete out­side the Miryal­guda hos­pi­tal where the young cou­ple, ex­pect­ing their first child, had come for a check-up on Septem­ber 14. Dis­traught she may be, but Am­rutha is also de­ter­mined to see the killers, al­legedly in­clud­ing her own father, a real es­tate de­vel­oper from the Vysya com­mu­nity, T. Maruthi Rao, pun­ished.

Po­lice say Rao paid

Rs 1 crore to hire Sub­hash Ku­mar Sharma, a con­tract killer from Ja­gats­ingh­pur in Bi­har, to kill his son-in-law. The hit­man was con­tacted through Mo­hammed Bari, an ac­cused in the 2003 killing of Gu­jarat home min­is­ter Haren Pandya. Hav­ing ar­rested three ac­cused, in­ves­ti­ga­tors have found out that ear­lier at­tempts to mur­der Pranay in Au­gust were aborted since the killers lacked pre­cise de­tails of his where­abouts. Also ad­mit­ting a lapse, po­lice said the cou­ple had in­formed them about the threat from Rao.

Sweet­hearts since school, Am­rutha and Pranay dropped out of col­lege to wed in Hy­der­abad in Jan­uary. Rao had made sev­eral at­tempts to dis­suade his daugh­ter, to no avail. She says her father had Pranay mur­dered be­cause he was of ‘lower’ caste. Be­sides crim­i­nal con­spir­acy and mur­der, Rao and the other ac­cused have also been booked un­der the SC/ST (Preven­tion of Atroc­i­ties) Act.

Un­de­terred by the tragedy that’s be­fallen her, Am­rutha has not only spo­ken out against her fam­ily but is also de­mand­ing a spe­cial law to en­sure ex­em­plary pun­ish­ment for caste-based hon­our killings. “I can’t live with­out him, but I will, for my baby, and to fight against the caste sys­tem,” she says. Both the young widow and her father-in-law, P. Balaswamy, have re­jected the ‘gen­er­ous’ com­pen­sa­tion— cash, a two-bed­room house and a plot of land—of­fered by the Telangana govern­ment. Balaswamy says all he wants is to see the killers hang after a fast-track trial.

Am­rutha, mean­while, has found sup­port from Gowsalya Shankar, whose Dalit hus­band was mur­dered in Tirup­pur, Tamil Nadu, in March 2016. Spe­cially trav­el­ling up to Miriyal­guda, she told Am­rutha how she stead­fastly fought more than 50 bail ap­pli­ca­tions her par­ents sub­mit­ted. Even­tu­ally, the Tirup­pur

Am­rutha is de­mand­ing a spe­cial law to en­sure ex­em­plary pun­ish­ment for caste-based hon­our killings

dis­trict court con­victed eight of the 11 ac­cused, and handed six, in­clud­ing her father, a death sen­tence.

“My aim is to en­sure the killers are pun­ished and the caste sys­tem is dis­man­tled,” says Gowsalya. She has since also in­sti­tuted a trust in her hus­band’s name to en­sure gen­der equal­ity, help marginalised chil­dren get ed­u­ca­tion and erad­i­cate caste. A tall or­der, but she’s work­ing on it.

STAR-CROSSED LOVERS Am­rutha and Pranay

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