Ramya (name changed) was found dead in suspicious circumstances in her village on July 4.

A 40-year-old woman from Sriraman village in Cuddalore district was found dead under suspicious circumstances on Saturday.
news Crime Monday, July 06, 2020 - 18:20

A 40-year-old woman from Sriraman village in Ariyalur district was found dead under suspicious circumstances on Saturday, July 4. While the police have filed an FIR under IPC Section 174 – unnatural death – implying suicide, the woman’s family has alleged that she was sexually harassed and murdered.

Ramya (name changed) was a Dalit woman and a resident of Sriraman village. According to her father, she had left the house at around 12 noon on July 4 to take a bath. When she didn't come home for a long time, her father went in search of her. People working closeby then told him that Ramya’s body was near a local temple which falls within the Cuddalore district limits.

Pictures, which TNM will not publish, show Ramya kneeling next to a tree, while a cloth is tied around her neck, the other end of it tied to the tree. The suspicious way in which her body was found has made several people question the initial police version that this is a case of suicide. 

Ramya’s father has alleged that a Vanniyar resident of the same village had a hand in her death.

Police however claim that as per their investigation, Ramya’s last call had been to the man accused by her father, and the call was made from the phone of another woman in the village. "We called him for an enquiry and we found that the deceased and the man were close friends. She is a widow and he is a widower. They both have grown up children. During the enquiry the man admitted that they had spoken to each other, but he claims the conversation didn't last long and that he didn't want to talk to her," says a police official investigating the case.

Ramya's family however is not convinced by the police's explanation.

'Police siding with the accused'

In their complaint to the police, they have alleged that they suspect the man’s involvement in her death and have demanded that the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act be applied in the case. They have further demanded that he be booked for sexual harassment.

Further residents of Sriraman and neighbouring villages allege that this is not the first time that Ramya has been attacked by members of the Vanniyar community. Suresh, the Panchayat President of Rajendrapatinam and a member of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), alleges that she has been publicly humiliated for her relationship with the accused man.

"They have been in a relationship for about 4-5 years but his sons didn't approve of this. The have stripped her, tied her to a electricity pole and beaten her up and insulted her for being Dalit. Her family had to apologise and promise that she will discontinue the relationship," says Suresh.

"Despite this, they have continued the relationship. They have been meeting near this motor room (where Ramya went for a bath) and the man’s sons must have attacked her. And contrary to what the police say, it was the man who called Ramya and not the other way round," he adds.

Eyewitnesses have further alleged that her clothes were in a state of disarray and bloody when the body was found.

"The police are siding with the accused and taking this case too slowly. They even sent the body for a post mortem only today, after over 300 villagers protested in front of the station," says Suresh. "We are shocked that no proper action is being taken in what is clearly a murder case.” 

VCK Chief Thol Thirumavalavan has also raised objection to the police alleged lack of investigation. In a tweet on Monday, he said, "Ramya of Sriraman village (Cuddalore) was strangled to death by caste fanatics from the family of those who sexually exploited her. Having killed this young widow, they tied her body to a tree to make it appear like a suicide. Police are also trying to cover it up."