Another alleged dowry death in Kerala: 19-year-old found dead

Nineteen-year-old Suchithra was allegedly constantly harassed by her mother-in-law demanding more money, said her parents.
Deceased Suchithra
Deceased Suchithra
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On June 21, when the news of Kollam native Vismaya’s alleged suicide due to dowry harassment surfaced in the state, Alappuzha native Sunitha got chills. She immediately called her 19-year-old daughter Suchithra, who got married three months ago to a Vallikunnam resident. Sunitha was anxious, as she knew that her daughter, too, had been facing similar harassment from her in-laws, who allegedly kept demanding more dowry. Sunitha had reportedly reassured Suchithra to not take any drastic measures, and that her ‘Amma’ and ‘Chachan’ would always be with her. But the next day on June 22, Suchitra was found dead in her room at her in-laws’ house.

“When I see such news (suicide deaths), I used to tell Suchithra that Amma and Chachan are always with her, whatever happens, and that we need her. My child won’t do this (suicide),” Sunitha said. The mother was inconsolable as she spoke to Asianet News. Suchithra’s parents are alleging that her death was a murder, and are stating that she would never have taken her own life.

It was on March 21 that Krishnapuram native Suchithra got married to Vishnu, a soldier. Her horoscope said if she is not married before the age of 20, her marriage will take place only after seven years. The family had given 51 sovereigns of gold and a car as dowry. However, Suchithra was allegedly constantly harassed by her in-laws, who demanded more money. “We had decided to give a two-wheeler, but Vishnu’s father demanded a car. Later, they demanded Rs 10 lakh,” alleged Sunil, Suchithra’s father, to Manorama News.

As per the family, the wedding took place after Suchithra’s father promised her in-laws that he would give the money when he gets his pension. “However, soon after the wedding, the groom’s family started demanding again, saying they need money urgently for Vishnu’s sister,” said Sunil.

The family alleged that Suchithra was harassed by her mother-in-law after the wedding when their daughter insisted that the gold ornaments be kept in the locker. However, her mother-in-law had allegedly mortgaged a portion of her ornaments.

Watch the Manorama News report:

“I only told her to keep the rest of the gold in the locker,” a weeping Sunil said. “Suchithra's mother-in-law took her to mortgage the gold for a loan, but when she asked about the locker, her mother-in-law shouted at her, asking if she did not trust them. They would have beaten my daughter, but she didn’t say anything to us,” he alleged. Sunil also alleged that Suchithra’s mother in-law used to physically assault her.

“She even called me one day, crying, asking why we gave her gold as there are problems in the house in the name of gold (as the family kept demanding it),” Suchithra’s mother told Asianet News. She also said that Suchithra’s mother-in-law used to pester her husband to shout at her. “She didn’t have much issue with Vishnu (her husband). But her mother-in-law would keep pestering him. Until he shouted at my daughter, she would stand at their door saying something to pester him,” alleged Sunitha.

Watch Asianet News report:

However, Vishnu had gone back to Jharkhand, where he was stationed, a month-and-a-half after their wedding. Suchithra was staying with her parents-in-law.

Suchithra’s parents also added that they do not believe that she took her own life. “She does not even know how to tie a proper knot, then how can she do this,” asked Suchithra’s mother. “Aren’t girls also humans…why do everyone do this to daughter had a long life ahead..,” cried Suchithra’s mother.

MC Josephine, who visited Suchithra's family before she resigned from the post of Women's Commission Chairperson, had expressed shock on the reason why the woman was married off at such a young age.

"It is in this Kerala which is rooted in renaissance that this family told me that she (Suchithra) was married as per horoscope. Because as per it, if  she is not married within 19 years, marriage will take place only when she is 27 years old. And now she didn't even live for 27 years. Superstition is still rampant here."

‘Their only aim was money’

Relatives of Suchithra alleged that Vishnu and his family had only aimed at money through the marriage. Talking to Manorama News, Suchithra’s uncle, K Sajeevan, alleged that before marrying Suchithra, Vishnu’s family had proceeded with another alliance.

“However, when they demanded Rs 10 lakh some days before the wedding, the previous woman’s family backed off from the alliance. It was the same way in Suchithra’s case also. Suchithra’s father first said he will buy Vishnu a Wagon R. But they demanded a new model car of TATA, which we accepted. But a few days before marriage, they demanded Rs 10 lakh, like in the previous alliance. But we did not know about the previous alliance then,” alleged Sajeevan.

The other woman’s family reached out to Suchithra’s family, after coming to know about Suchithra’s death. That’s when they made the connection,” added Sajeevan.

Meanwhile, Vallikunnam police told TNM that Suchithra’s parents have given a statement against the mother-in-law, alleging harassment. “Though we are yet to get the post-mortem report, during the inquest, no suspicions, injury marks or signs of assault were found in her body,” said Station House Officer Mithun D. A case has been registered for unnatural death. More sections will be added in the course of investigation, said officials.

Over the past one week, Kerala has reported multiple deaths of women, all of which are suspected dowry deaths. It was on June 21 that 22-year-old Vismaya, a final year Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery student was found dead in her husband Kiran Kumar’s house in Kollam’s Sasthamkotta. Vismaya had previously shared with her family about the brutal assault at the hands of her husband with pictures.

Meanwhile, on June 21, another woman, 24-year-old Archana, allegedly died by suicide in the house where she was living with her husband. Her family has accused Archana’s husband, Suresh, of assaulting her often, and that he had been demanding more dowry from Archana’s family.

Laws and helplines

If you are a woman facing violence at home, call national domestic violence hotline Dhwani - 1800 102 7282. The national helpline for women in distress is 1091.

The rights of women who are subjected to domestic abuse are protected under the law, including the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, if a husband or relative(s) subjects the woman to cruelty that causes grave injuries (physically or mentally) — by making unlawful demand of property or valuable or for not meeting such demands — he or they will be punished with imprisonment of upto three years and fine. Besides, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 makes the practice of giving and taking dowry illegal.

Women who are subjected to domestic abuse or any person who is aware of such a situation can reach out to helplines that offer assistance. The Scheme of Universalisation of Women Helpline (WHL) number 181 is a 24 hours helpline that provides immediate and emergency response to women affected by violence in public and private spaces. The helpline links to police, hospital or other authorities concerned. Even if the woman is interrupted during the call or is unable to specify her problem or address due to an illness or a disability, WHL will trace the call and initiate an emergency response. The helpline staff will maintain the confidentiality of the caller.

The Women Helpline Directory can be accessed here. Other state-wise women’s helpline numbers can be found here.

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