A history of honor killings against Dalits in Telangana
Hyderabad: Exactly 45 months ago, Telangana witnessed one of the bloodiest honor killings in which a Dalit Christian P Pranay Kumar (23) was murdered by hitmen.
The killers were hired at the insistence of his father-in-law T Maruti Rao, a prominent estate agent and politician from Miryalaguda town of Nalgonda district and his brother Shravan.
It was on September 14, 2018 that Pranay was hacked to death with machetes by hired killers for marrying a woman of a different religion. Wife Amrutha Varshini, an upper caste Hindu woman was friends with Pranay – a Dalit Christian – for several years. Later, the couple got married without telling anyone.
The highlight of the case was T Maruti Rao, struck a deal for Rs. 1.13 crore to hire assailants to hunt down and kill Pranay. Of this amount, about Rs. 15 lakh was paid as an advance. It is considered one of the greatest ‘supari uprights’ in Telangana.
Police officials call the killings one of the cases that gave rise to honor killings in Telangana. “In this case, we were shocked to know that Maruti Rao agreed to pay Rs. 1.13 crore to the hitmen for killing Pranay. This showed his anger at a Dalit man who was marrying his daughter,” said an official who was part of the investigation.
Maruti Rao, who was arrested for Pranay’s murder, later committed suicide in 2020 at an Arya Vysya Bhavan – a guest house for the merchant community at Khairatabad in Hyderabad.
Another honor killing case took place in September 2020 in Cyberabad, Telangana, in which a 28-year-old man named Hemanth Kumar was killed by relatives of his wife Avanthi Reddy in an inter-caste murder. Police arrested 14 people including 12 members of Avanthi’s family, including his parents Donthireddy Laxma Reddy (54) and Donthireddy Archana (44).
Kumar belonged to the Vysya community and was an interior designer while his wife, Avanthi, is an upper caste Reddy woman. She is a B.Tech graduate, and the Vysyas and Reddy are wealthy castes in the Telugu States.
Both lived in the same locality of Chandangar in Hyderabad and had known each other for eight years. The two got married on June 10, 2020 at the Deputy Registrar’s office in Quthbullapur against their parents’ wishes and knowledge. “In this case, Laxma Reddy paid her drivers and four others substantial sums to kill Hemanth Kumar,” police said at the time.
In another case in S.R Nagar in 2018, a man attacked his own daughter for marrying someone from another caste. The couple Sandeep (23) and Madhavi (21) got married on September 12, 2018 in an Arya Samaj temple against the wishes of Madhavi’s family. While Sandeep belonged to the SC community, Madhavi belonged to the Backward Class community. The girl’s parents had threatened Madhavi not to pursue the relationship and in fact, we are looking for a partner to marry her off.
Upon learning of the marriage, the girl’s father, Manohar Chari had called the couple to meet him at Erragada, Gokul Theater and attacked Sandeep, however, he escaped as Madhavi came ahead to save her husband. The woman was seriously injured.
In the recent inter-faith murder case in Saroornagar on May 3 this year, Nagaraju, a Dalit, was killed by his brother-in-law and another person for marrying Ashrin Sultana. Both were married at the Arya Samaj temple in the old city of Hyderabad against the wishes of Ashrin’s family. Two relatives of the woman, Mobeen and Masood were arrested.
Also in this case, many believe that the opposition to their marriage was linked to Nagaraju’s membership in the Dalit community.
“In the majority of cases, the girl’s family members oppose the marriage. Instances are high when the boy is from a lower caste. Most marriages take place at the civil registry office or at the Arya Samaj temple, after which the couple land at the police station to seek protection,” said Avinash, a human rights activist.
In the latest case at Begum Bazaar, Neeraj and Sanjana approached Afzalgunj police when members of Sanjana’s family threatened Neeraj a few months ago in Kosalwadi. “The woman’s family members were counseled and warned against interfering with the couple when they approached us,” an Afzalgunj police station official said.
Shahinayathgunj police arrested four people, all relatives of the girl who had been planning to settle accounts since the day of Neeraj and Sanjana’s wedding.
The resentment and hatred in such cases is measured by the fact that members of Neeraj’s family told police on Saturday that members of the Yadav community to which Sanjana belonged clapped and whistled in celebration of Nagaraju’s recent murder. . “We want security and police protection for us. People are whistling and clapping outside our homes,” a woman from the Marwadi community reportedly told Joel Davis, DCP (west) in his office.
According to sources, about 10 couples from different castes fled to Shahinyathgunj and Mangalhat police stations last year. Some of the girls are from the Yadava community.
“Caste marriages are not new here. Families from various castes reside in settlements in Begum Bazaar, Shahinyathgunj, Dhoolpet, Mangalhath and Afzalgunj for decades. From childhood, they attend schools where students of all faiths and castes study. So when they grow up, love marriages take place, and most families shut up and allow couples to live their own way,” said a local resident.
A veteran lawyer, Narsing Rao, of Telangana Higher School, attributes the increase in honor killings to growing casteism in society. “Political parties divided people on the basis of beliefs earlier and now more openly on the basis of caste. So if an act of a single woman does not affect a family but an entire community,” he said.
A retired police officer from Telangana said there was little police could do when couples came asking for protection. “A threat analysis is carried out and based on this, the families of the man and woman are called and warned against any interference in their lives. The cases are usually not reserved so as not to increase the hatred between them, because in many cases we see parents forgiving their children and again they come to ask us to drop the cases,” said a police official.
However, he said, in cases where there is a serious danger, they advise them to move the houses to a safe place. “Generally for a year or two there will be unease, especially among young people in families. It is better to avoid clashes,” he added.