Human Rights
Days before she died, the 13-year-old made a video appeal to her father, where she is pleading for help

Days after the death of 13-year-old Sai Sri in Vijayawada, after her father allegedly refused to pay for her medical treatment, her mother has laid the blame squarely on her former husband.

Speaking to The News Minute, Suma Shri said, "How can anyone be so heartless? He let my daughter die even though he could have stopped it."

Sai Sri passed away on May 14, after months of battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer that tampers with blood cells, and platelets. 

Days before she died, she shot off a video appeal to her father, where she is seen pleading for monetary help, to pay for her medical treatment.

"I haven't gone to school in months. I want to play with my friends. If they complete my treatment, I will happily go back to school. My hands and feet hurt. I need the treatment. Mother really doesn't have the money. If you think that she will take your money, then you take me to the hospital, and get me treated," she is seen saying.

Since then, Suma has alleged that the girl's father let her die, because he wanted control over their present residence in Vijayawada, which was under Sai's name. 

Because the father had signed up as the guardian, Suma claimed that he would have complete control of the house if Sai died. 

Suma married Shivakumar in 2002, and says that she was constantly harassed by him. Till 2007, Suma and Shiva used to stay with Sai Sri in Vijayawada. It was the same year that the present house at Durgapuram was purchased. 

Following this, Shivakumar and Suma had a fallout over various issues, and she claimed that he even physically assaulted her.

In 2008, Suma says that she was unable to bear the harassment and left with Sai, and began living with her mother and brother in the city's Bank Colony area.

"Until 2010, things were a little stable. Shivakumar would come outside the house, visit the child, spend some time and go away," Suma said.

After this, Suma began seeing someone else and shifted to Hyderabad along with Sai.

"After that, he began calling me late in the night, and threatening me again. I had enough of this, so we went and met the Vijayawada Police Commissioner and took an undertaking, and then a mutual divorce," she says.

Till 2015, Suma andher partner, Krishna Kumar stayed in Hyderabad.

"Even after that, Shivakumar was still in touch with Sai. He would occasionally visit her in school and talk to her, and she would come and inform us. However, he was not giving any maintenance, and neither did we ask," says Krishna.

According to the family, Sai was first diagnosed with cancer on August 27, 2016, when she had a fever and they conducted a blood test.

"At that time, we informed Shivakumar, and he came to Hyderabad's Apollo Hospital on August 29. Sai was in the ICU, and he saw her, and deposited Rs 2 lakh. He said that she was his daughter, and even stayed there for 2 or 3 days. After that, he went back to Bengaluru, but still sent another Rs 3 lakh for Sai's treatment," Krishna adds.

After this, the family says that Shivakumar stopped enquiring about Sai, and stopped responding to their calls.

"He has an advocate friend called Seshagiri Rao. He is a retired police officer. He spoke to me when Sai was still in the hospital, and asked me to send all medical records, because his daughter was a doctor. I sent everything to Shiva Kumar on WhatsApp. After that, Rao told Shivakumar to stop helping my daughter," Suma alleges.

"I don't know what they spoke, but Rao must have told Shivakumar that he would get the Vijayawada property if Sai died, as he was the guardian. He also owns several other properties, and did not want her claiming a stake in those, after he died," she adds.

After that, Suma says that he completely stopped responding.

"Even after that, we were bearing the medical expenses. I sold my property in Hyderabad and paid Rs 20 lakh to clear all the dues. By January 17, 2017, the doctors told us that Sai was cured," Krishna says.

"They told us that there was no cancer remaining in the body, and said that if she didn't get it again in the next 5 or 6 years, then she would not have any problems in the future," he added. 

However, to avoid a relapse of the cancer, Suma says that they had to spend nearly Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 every month for medicines for the next one year.

"For this, me, Suma and Sai tracked down Shivakumar in Bengaluru, and went to his house on February 27. We told him that she had been cured, but just needed these medicines," Krishna says.

However, the couple say that Shivakumar behaved completely differently, and insisted that he would take care of Sai and make her study.

"So, we explained to Sai that we couldn't afford the treatment, but her father promised to take care of her, and convinced her to stay," Krishna added.

Following this, Suma claimed that Sai's father did not provide her with treatment even though she trusted him. 

"Within three days, she said that she wanted to return. She started saying that her father didn't treat her properly and did not give her medicines in time. She said that she was not even fed properly," Suma said.

She also alleged that Sai's father manhandled her and misbehaved with her, which led to mental stress on the girl.

"We immediately brought her back to Hyderabad, but Sai was really depressed. In this depression, she started getting fever again. We thought that she may be lonely, so we brought her back to Vijayawada, so she can spend time with our extended family," she added.

In April, Sai was down with a high fever again, and tests done in a Vijayawada hospital showed that her platelet count had started fluctuating again, like it had happened last year, during the cancer.

"We immediately rushed her back to the Hyderabad hospital, where they conducted tests and told us that the cancer had relapsed. They said that it was due to stress and said that there was only one way to save her," Krishna says.

"First, they said it would cost Rs 10 lakh for chemotherapy and another Rs 25 lakh for bone marrow transplant. I didn't have that kind of money, so I called her father. However, he did not respond," Suma added.

Political Connection

Faced with no other choice, Suma said that she tried to sell the Vijayawada house to raise money for Sai's medical treatment.

However, she claimed that Shiva Kumar stopped her, with the help of TDP MLA for Vijayawada Central, Bonda Umamaheswara Rao. 

Suma claims that the MLA and her first husband had been long time friends, even before the former became a legislator.

"Even when the call money racket broke out in Andhra in 2015, Shivakumar was involved and the police opened a rowdy sheet against him," Krishna alleged. 

The call money racket involved several financiers who gave loans to women at high interest rates, and coerced them into handing over their houses or lands when they failed to repay the money.

Suma alleged that the MLA's men entered their house and began residing there, claiming that they were tenants who were paying rent to Shivakumar.

"One wife and husband came and started living in the house. They didn't even have many belongings. It was clearly a set up. They were there for five days, and many drunk men would come and stay the night in the house. After we created a scene, started asking for the rental agreement, and approached the police, after which they left," says Krishna.

However, the MLA has since dismissed all allegations, stating that he had no connection with the case.

"The opposition is bringing up an MLA's name for every issue. The opposition is doing politics over the death of a young girl, and I condemn this strongly. Even when a child with cancer has died, the opposition is distorting the facts and slinging mud on TDP leaders," he said.

Justice

However, despite all this, Suma remains confident that she will get justice.

"I am hopeful. I have submitted a complaint with the Vijayawada Commissioner, and he assured us that action will be taken. How can anyone let their own daughter die. If he gets punishment, it will be a lesson to everyone," she says.

"The police should file a case against him, arrest him and take him to court. Only then, will justice be served," she adds. 

The State Human Rights Commission has taken note of the issue, and asked the Police Commissioner for a report by July 20, 2017.