'I pleaded with my brother saying spare Nagaraju, I will come home': Sultana speaks

Sultana, in an interview to TNM said that her brother wanted her to marry a Muslim man and assaulted her a day before her wedding.
Sultana grieving her husband at the graveyard
Sultana grieving her husband at the graveyard

Relatives of Nagaraju slowly trickle to the graveyard on Friday at around 5 pm, which is about a kilometre from Marpalle village, to participate in the ritual where the deceased is offered his favourite food and drinks. A feeble Syed Ashrin Sultana while patiently waiting for other relatives to join, fondly recalls, “Raju wanted me to become a Collector. I was very interested in studying. But my family did not allow me to study. Raju even bought books for my exam preparation. No matter how much I earn, I will support you in your education, Raju had said. He supported me in every decision.” According to Sultana, Nagaraju even bought books for her Civil services exam preparation just two days before the fateful day. “Our paths and dreams were aligned,” she says. 

Sultana’s husband, 26-year-old Billipuram Nagaraju, a Dalit man, was killed by her brother Syed Mobin Ahmed for marrying against his wishes. Nagaraju was fatally attacked with an iron rod and knife, in full public view on a busy road in Hyderabad’s Saroornagar on May 4, Wednesday. The barbaric act was captured on camera by onlookers. The videos show a helpless Sultana pleading with her brother not to attack her husband, but to no avail. “I even pleaded with him saying I would go home with him if he spared Raju’ [Nagaraju],” Sultana shares, reliving the traumatic incident.   

Sultana who is presently staying with her in-laws in Marpalle, Vikarabad district, says that she will continue to be with Nagaraju’s family and look after them as her husband would have.   

The gruesome murder also generated a heated discussion on whether Sultana’s brother killed Nagaraju because of his religious identity or his caste status. Many anti-caste activists, some within the Muslim community, have pointed out that caste system exists among Indian Muslims, and that the murder could have been a result of caste discrimination. 

“My brother’s objection was that he was a Hindu.  I don't think he knew that Raju belonged to a Scheduled caste community. He wanted me to get married to a person of his choice from the Muslim community,” Sultana says.

Sunny, Nagaraju's cousin, however points out that Sultana's brother's opposition would have been because of Nagaraju's caste identity too. "In a village it is not difficult to find out caste identity of a person. One can find out where the person lives and easily locate their caste and other details," he says.

Two months before their marriage, Sultana was subjected to violence for insisting on marrying Nagaraju. “Even the day before the marriage, my brother assaulted me for nearly 13 hours. He wanted Nagaraju’s phone number and threatened to kill him when he arrived.” Sultana and Nagaraju got married on January 31, in Arya Samaj, Laxmi Nagar, Hyderabad in a Hindu ceremony. 

After their father passed away four years ago, Mobin started taking care of the family. When asked about her mother refusing to approve their marriage despite Nagaraju volunteering to get converted to Islam and seek Sultana’s hand in marriage, she says that her mother had no say in the matter. “Everything was in my brother’s control.” She says that her brother had already started looking for a suitable partner to get her married.

Sultana and Nagaraju had known each other for more than five years. They were studying in the same junior college and remained in touch since. In Hyderabad, Sultana was working in a national bank as a credit card sales representative, while Nagaraju was working in a car showroom as a salesman. 

Nagaraju’s family allege police negligence in the murder. After their marriage, the couple approached Mominpet police, seeking their protection. “Both our families were summoned to the police station and were counselled. But yet my brother was killed, so it was definitely the negligence of the police. My brother would have been alive if the police had realised the gravity of the matter,” says Nagaraju’s sister Ramadevi. The family also claim that they also approached the district Superintendent of Police, fearing their safety.       

“No one in our family was opposed to their marriage. Nagaraju was firm about getting married to Sultana, and we supported his decision,” says Ramesh, a close relative of Nagaraju. 

The gruesome incident has also gained a communal character. Condemning communal elements for exploiting the murder, civil rights activists across the state called for peace, and demanded strict punishment to the perpetrators. 

TRS working president and Minister of Urban Development KT Rama Rao also had demanded harsher punishments for the accused. The accused were arrested on Thursday, and were sent to 14-day judicial remand.

Meanwhile, Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan has demanded a detailed report on the crime. 

Watch what Sultana told TNM

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