When Divya met Elan Cheran for the first time four years ago, in the presence of both their families, she and her family were elated with the match. They didn’t know then that four years later, the young chartered accountant would be tortured and murdered, all in the name of dowry.
Back in 2013, the then 22-year-old was told by Elan Cheran’s parents that all they wanted was her, as a daughter-in-law. In that first meeting, dowry was laughed off, and Divya’s family was excited about the upcoming wedding - especially since Elan Cheran was a doctor.
But as the wedding date neared, things started changing dramatically. Elan Cheran’s family started making demands, and though they were a little taken aback, Divya’s family agreed to give them what they wanted, for the sake of their daughter’s future.
They gave Elan Cheran’s family 100 sovereigns of gold, Rs 15 lakh for a car, Rs 30 lakh cash and 5 kg of silver as dowry, Divya’s brother Prekumar says. “But Elan Cheran’s mother was not happy with it,” he adds.
“The day after the wedding, she took all the gold from Divya and started fighting with her, claiming that we had given two sovereigns of gold less than we promised. She called us, and I immediately went and bought two sovereigns of gold,” Premkumar recalled.
But even that wasn’t enough for the doctor’s parents; after allegedly torturing her for dowry over the years, Elan Cheran’s family allegedly murdered their 25-year-old daughter-in-law on July 17.
Image: Divya with her husband and in-laws
Multiple demands for dowry
All things considered, Divya’s family should perhaps have seen this coming. In the last four years, she has come back home crying at least twenty times, says Premkumar.
“We have given them money multiple times in the last four years… Once, we gave Rs 4 lakh, once it was Rs 3 lakh, once it was Rs 50,000. In total, we have given them around Rs 15 to 20 lakh over the years,” Premkumar says.
“Ten days ago, she came back home, saying her in-laws had now demanded Rs 10 lakh. We sent her back, saying we will try to arrange the money, but we didn’t know they would kill her for this,” the distraught brother says.
On July 17, Divya’s father-law and two other men, Shivakumar and Senthil, hit her and allegedly suffocated her to death using a pillow.
“Around 10.30pm that night, her mother-in-law called me and asked me to come to their house, saying that Divya is unwell. By the time, I reached their home, they had taken her to a government hospital. When I reached the hospital, I realised she was murdered by her in-laws,” Premkumar recalls.
“She had marks all over her face,” he adds.
The next day, Divya’s brother filed a complaint with the Mannargudi town police station.
“During the investigation, we found out that three men, including her father-in-law, had murdered her,” a senior police officer from Mannargudi tells TNM.
“The father-in-law told us during the interrogation that he and his wife wanted to get their son married to another woman, to get more dowry. So, they decided to kill her,” inspector of Mannargudi town police station says.
Asked about the husband’s role in the case, police say he was not involved in murder, but he has been charged for dowry harassment.
The police have arrested five people in the case, including Divya’s husband Elan Cheran, his parents, and two other men - Shivakumar and Senthil. All five accused have been remanded to Tiruchi central prison, and a case has been filed under Section 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 302 (Punishment for murder) under Indian Penal Code.
The signs of things to come
“Earlier, Divya’s family had gone to panchayat with this issue, and both the families had reached a compromise,” the police inspector tells TNM.
Today, Premkumar feels guilty for shouting at his sister many times, asking her to go back to her in-laws’ house. Divya’s family - like many others in a similar situation - had held ‘family’ and ‘reconciliation’ over their daughter’s safety.
“About a year ago, her mother-in-law had fought with her saying that she did not do household chores properly, and her father-in-law hit her for that. She was scared to go back home, yet, we told her to go back,” Premkumar rues.
“She had a three-year-old child, and she had to take care of him…” he says, perhaps in an attempt to console himself.
“I thought, slowly, everything will be fine,” he says, offering a refrain that many families give, as they try to come to terms with domestic violence.
(Edited by Ragamalika Karthikeyan)