Oct 2, 2018.
A 17-year-old girl’s body was on the funeral pyre, almost ready to be consigned to the flames when the Chhavani Police entered the smashan ghat (crematorium).
After a round of arguments, as her own family broke into a cold sweat, the police managed to take her off the pyre and take her to the civil hospital.
The anonymous caller who had tipped them off was speaking the truth after all. The girl hadn’t died of a heart attack as her own parents had claimed to their relatives, friends and neighbours.
She had been strangled to death. By none other than her parents and a cousin.
For loving a boy who her parents thought would bring shame to her family and hurt their pride and “honour”.
Do note that this story has nothing to do with caste.
But a horrible crime that unravelled after a couple in Malegaon realised that their daughter was dating another classmate who they had warned her against.
The truth of the matter was that she was still in touch with the boy. This angered the parents to the extent that they didn’t even give their anger a second thought before turning their daughter’s birthday into the day she breathed her last.
The Better India got in touch with the alert police team in Malegaon that found the perpetrators and solved the case, just in time before they could destroy the most crucial evidence of the murder–the girl’s body.
It all began with a phone call at the police control room.
Giving the details of the girl’s home, the caller said, “She hasn’t died of a heart-attack. Please investigate.”
Speaking to The Better India, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Malegaon Camp, Ajit Hagawane, said that the girl, a class 11 student, had been in a relationship with her classmate for the last one year.
She belonged to a known family in Malegaon.
The reason for the honour killing was not related to caste but the age of the children.
“During interrogation, the girl’s parents said that they were against their daughter’s relationship at such a young age,” said Hagawane.
The parents had first come to know of the relationship after they discovered the text messages and calls she had exchanged with the boy on a phone that he had gifted her.
The confrontation agitated the parents. They even threatened her and began to beat her. They thought that this would end the relationship between the two minors.
But the very next day, the girl left her home. She was found wandering helplessly in the locality by the boy’s friend. He informed the boy, and the two decided to take her back to her home.
The parents, instead of thanking them, smashed the phone in front of the boy, and threatened him to stay away from their daughter.
Cut to October 1st, 2018.
It was her birthday.
The young girl told her parents that she was going to school.
Instead, she was travelling 50 km outside Malegaon with her friends to celebrate her birthday, where the boy was also in attendance.
The girl’s neighbour, who had spotted her, was with his wife. When he inquired what she was doing away from home, she told him that she was celebrating her birthday. The neighbour’s wife happened to tell the girl’s mother, who, blinded by her rage, told her husband that their daughter had lied about her whereabouts.
When she returned home about 13 hours later, the parents confronted her, leading to another round of fights and assaults on the minor.
They stopped her from stepping out of home alone; the only place she was allowed to go was to school.
In the evening though, they ordered food from a local restaurant under the pretext that they were celebrating her birthday.
Hagawane shared, “Little did the girl know that her parents had already hatched a plan to murder her that night. That afternoon, her mother bought 20 sleeping pills from a local shop.”
When the girl returned in the evening, her parents crushed the sleeping pills and mixed them with her food. They had also invited her cousin, informing him about their plan.
At around 1:30 am, when they were convinced that the girl was fast sleep, the cousin strangled her, as her father held her legs and the mother held her hands, till her body was left lifeless.
After a few hours, the family carried her body in an auto-rickshaw to a private hospital to get the death certificate.
But the authorities realised that it wasn’t a natural death. Instead of informing the police, they asked the parents to take the body to another hospital. The next hospital too wanted to avoid the legal hassle and told them to take the body to Malegaon Civil Hospital.
“Taking her to the civil hospital scared them. They knew that the investigation would reveal the truth and that there would be no way of escaping the police. So they decided to take the body home,” Hagawane revealed.
In his statement to the police, the 41-year-old man (the girl’s father) disclosed how they called their relatives and told them that their daughter had a raging fever and had died of a heart attack.
At around 10.40 am on October 2nd, the police control room received a call from an anonymous caller. The Chhavani police station was alerted, and the police team reached the girl’s residence.
They learnt that her body had been taken to the crematorium for the final rites. The family had covered a distance of 2.5 kms in 20 minutes. The police wasted no time and followed them there.
“Had the anonymous caller not called, our team would have never been able to reach in time. The body was on the funeral pyre. They protested, but our team stood ground and demanded to take custody. After a lot of struggle, we took the body to the civil hospital,” Hagawane told The Better India.
The results of the post-mortem found that the girl died ‘due to cardio-respiratory attack due to spinal cord injury due to atlanto-occipital joint’, which is suggestive of strangulation.
The police took the parents into custody who first framed the same old story, and eventually spilt the beans.
“We had warned her to stay away from the boy for almost a year. But she went behind our backs. She was ruining our name and hurting our honour in the society. So we killed her,” her parents said, during the interrogation.
The death of the young girl has shocked not just Malegaon but also the state. The deputy superintendent revealed how this was one case of its kind to be reported in the locality.
“People, as well as the police, are shocked about the murder,” he said.
The accused (the parents and the cousin) have been taken into custody and booked under the following sections of the IPC: 302 (murder); 328 (causing hurt by means of poison); 201 (causing disappearance of evidence); and 34 (offence done by several with common intention).
While this was a case where the police were able to crack down on the perpetrators in time, one can only imagine how many such young people are brutally killed within the four walls of their homes for the sake of “honour”.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)