There is an eerie silence at Muthireddy Kunta in Miryalaguda, as family members, friends, neighbours and activists poured in to the house of Pranay Kumar, a Telangana man who was hacked to death on Friday, in a case of caste killing. A large tent had been set up outside the house, even as Pranay's wife, Amrutha Varshini and his parents, are seated at the entrance.
24-year-old Pranay was hacked to death allegedly by a hired killer when he was coming out of a hospital with Amrutha after a regular pregnancy check-up. Pranay, a Dalit of the Mala caste had married Amrutha, a Vaishya (a caste group categorised as Forward) in January despite strong opposition from Amrutha's parents. The coldblooded caste killing in broad daylight has evoked public outrage.
It has been less than a day since Pranayâ€™s funeral procession saw thousands of people from different walks of life, who shouted slogans of â€śPranay Amar Rahe" and "Jai Bhim!â€ť. He was laid to rest at a local burial ground following a ceremony in church.
Amrutha, who has been speaking to the media since her husband's murder, sat quietly, looking frail. Her father, Maruthi Rao, is the main accused, and she has already decided that she will stay with Pranay's family and vowed to never return to the place she once called home.
"We will take care of her. We canâ€™t leave her like that and she wants to be with us. If we deny her this, where will she go? We will take care of her baby as well and we will continue to fight legally. We want to make sure that the culprits are punished and justice is meted out," Pranay's mother, Hemalatha, says.
She also says that the police have told them that they could still be under threat, and advised them to move in groups and be cautious and inform the local police of any suspicious activity.
"There is uncertainty about our future and we are afraid, but we will never leave her. She will be with us," Hemalatha adds.
Suspicion lingers in the air. This reporter had to prove his identity to the family before they opened up.
Pranay's father, Balaswamy alias Balakrishna, is also in an emotionally fragile state. While he had initially opposed the relationship when the couple had come forward, he says that he has since come to love Amrutha.
"I have two sons and I considered Amrutha as my own daughter. She was innocent when she first came into the house, but we never had any discomfort. She will stay with us," he says.
"I adopted her almost, as my own daughter. At least seeing that, they should have left my son," he adds, before breaking down.
Meanwhile, social activist Vimalakka reaches the house and speaks to the family members and consoles them. The mood is grim and reflects solidarity.
Speaking to reporters after her meeting, Vimalakka said, "It is an inhuman act. The two of them were a beautiful symbol of love. If you didn't like it, you could just leave them alone, but instead separating them in this way is a heinous crime. it only shows the inhuman face of caste. We must all collectively fight this."
The police have reportedly detained Amrutha's father Maruthi Rao, her uncle Shravan Kumar and few others in the case. Maruthi Rao allegedly paid Rs 10 lakh to the hired killer. He reportedly told the police that the 'honour' of his caste was more important for him than his daughter.