There was an unusual sense of dread in the non-descript village of Ithamozhi in Kanyakumari district, on Sunday. Police, members of the District Child Protection services and the media were all gathered at the backyard of a small house, waiting anxiously. Two men were slowly removing dark brown mud from a freshly dug spot, which was three feet deep, when they found what they were looking for.
The corpses of two 10-day-old girls were carefully carried out of their place of burial, and laid side by side. Their ashen faces and limp bodies made those present cringe in revulsion, says an officer who was at the site.
"But do you know who failed to show the slightest signs of sadness or even shock?â€ť asks S Kumutha, the District Child Protection Officer, before answering, "The parents of the dead twin girls who were right next to us."
Kumutha received a call on June 2 from an anonymous informant, who told her that a pair of twin girls born to a couple from the district had died under mysterious circumstances. The infants, the informant said, were only 10 days old.
"I immediately dispatched my social workers to the residence where the children had been buried," says Kumudha. The workers found out that children were born on May 22, to 39-year-old Kannan and 29-year-old Divya at a local hospital. They were at Divya's home in Kannankulam, when the children died.
"When we interrogated Divya, she said that she had breastfed both the children at around 4.30am in the morning. After that, she put them to sleep. But when she woke up, both the children were dead, she claims. She is saying they suffocated to death," says Kumutha, sceptically.
Following their inquiries, the social workers alerted the Kottar police station and the relatives were all called in for questioning. "The couple had been married for five years and they already have a two-year-old daughter. We are questioning the entire family because the children were in good health when they died. A case has been registered under Section 174 of the CrPC (Unnatural death)," says an investigating officer. "Nothing suspicious has however been discovered in the postmortem so far," he added.
Kumutha, who was at the spot, however told The News Minute that he doctor conducting the post mortem had confirmed that the death of the children was not natural. "The doctor has advised us to investigate the matter well. In Kannan's house, all his five brothers have girl children and it is possible that they pressurised the couple into killing their own children," she says.
The Child Protection Officer says it makes no sense that both children would die of suffocation at the same time. "When we questioned neighbours about this, they told us that there was no sign of death or sorrow in the house. Nobody was crying and the children were not even rushed to the hospital," she explains.
The investigating officer too agrees that it is suspicious that family did not even inform relatives, neighbours or friends. "We are now questioning everyone in the family," he says.
For the District Child Protection services, the last two weeks have been hectic. "Ten days ago, an advocate tried to murder his third girl child in a hospital here and now this. Do you know the mother, Divya, has a BEd degree?" asks Kumutha. "The district has a high literacy rate but what is the use if this is the fate of its girl children?"