25-year-old Manasa from Telangana is a victim of alleged dowry harassment. But thanks to the media, her story has become a joke.
Earlier this week, Manasa, accompanied by her family members, staged a sit-in outside her in-laws' house, demanding that she be allowed inside. Her husband, Rajendra Prasad, who stands accused of dowry harassment, is reportedly a computer engineer from Illanda village of Wardhannepet in Warangal district.
After a few hours of the sit-in, the police tried to talk Manasa out of the protest but she wouldn't relent. Stating that she was tired of official inaction, she told the local media, "I came here as a last option, as I haven't got any justice."
She went on to recount the events which led her to make this move: "I married him on November 25, 2016, and within a month he demanded dowry. Everyone is supporting him, and no one is speaking for me. Even my mother-in-law is not even listening or caring for me."
Manasa then added that her husband demands biryani from her every single day and also drinks and beats her up.
"He keeps demanding biryani every single day. He had got used to it earlier. How can I make same thing every day? He asks for the same dish. He would also drink every day and beat me up," she said.
In January this year, Manasa was reportedly thrown out of the house.
Stating that the village elders held a meeting to sort out the differences between the couple, Manasa said that she returned in June, only to face a hostile household.
"Now, I want my husband to come here and face me in public. Then, we'll see what happens," she said.
However, it is Manasa's reference to biryani which caught the attention of the local media and soon, news reports outside the state, too, carried the story as an example of the eccentric. What was clearly a case of alleged domestic violence and dowry harassment became an amusing story about a man's love for biryani.
Speaking to TNM, SI Upender from Wardhannapet police station says, "That is actually not the case at all. It is a hype created by the local media.There is one local person, who hyped up the issue unnecessarily as being focused on the biryani. Then other TV channels picked it up, and now the national media has also picked it up."
Upender also makes it clear that it is a case of dowry and harassment first.
"No person mentions such things in a police complaint. It's become so sensationalised that my higher officials are calling me, and I have to continuously explain that it is not the case. In fact the couple had even been counselled recently by us, with their families in the police station," he adds.
"They had a turbulent relationship from the beginning. They have approached several police stations, including the women's PS, over their domestic quarrels. The Telugu media has stretched the 'biryani' claim," says Wardhannapet incharge sub-inspector Sandeep.
On Friday night, based on a complaint by the woman, the police registered a case.
"The case has been registered under Section 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 354A (Sexual Harassment),323 (voluntarily causing hurt), and Section 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961," Sandeep adds.
According to the police, Manasa is presently asking that her husband and parents live with her while her husband wants her to live with her in-laws.