On Wednesday, 24-year-old Ramya (name changed) approached the Shamshabad police station on the outskirts of Hyderabad around 11 pm, worried about her sister who had been unreachable for the past two hours. She says that police shrugged it off, saying, her sister probably just went somewhere.
The next morning, Ramya was on her way to Shadnagar Highway to identify a burnt dead body. It turned out to be her elder sister, Madhuri*, a government veterinarian doctor.
Madhuri, who went missing on Wednesday night was found burnt to death the next morning at the underpass on the national highway, in the outskirts of Hyderabad. Her death has trigged massive outrage across the country and has raised concerns about safety of women in public spaces in Hyderabad.
Speaking to TNM on Friday, Ramya says, “I understand that the police need to look at all angles in an investigation, but they were so sure that my sister voluntarily went somewhere, and didn’t take my concerns seriously. That is wrong.”
The police did end up taking Ramya’s complaint though, after the initial dismissal.
Even as the family is yet to come to terms with the tragic loss, anger towards the police is evident. “The police spoke to us very rudely, in a disgusting manner. They kept saying she would have gone with someone. I kept saying my daughter is not like that, but they didn’t listen. Their apathy cost us our daughter, they didn’t do what they should have,” Madhuri’s mother alleged.
Speaking to the media, Madhuri’s father questioned why the police didn’t cordon off the suspected area to ensure no one escaped, after taking the complaint. “Maybe then they could have stopped this (the murder) from happening. They should have gone out and verified physically; they could have stopped this heinous crime. My daughter would have been alive,” he says.
Since Friday morning, there is commotion at the house of the victim with politicians, activists, relatives, neighbours and media personnel visiting the family. Amidst the commotion, the mother is seated on the sofa, distraught, staring at the roof.
Madhuri’s mother had started to get tense when she didn’t return home as of 10pm on Wednesday. She kept asking Ramya to check with Madhuri.
“I thought she probably met with an accident, or her scooty had some problem. I never imagined this would happen to my daughter,” the mother tells TNM.
Neighbours walk in and break down as they offer condolences. “Just last night she was playing with your daughter for so long. How could someone do this to her,” the mother tells a neighbour, unable to hold back tears. “She’s the one who managed the house, did everything. I don’t know how we will live or manage without her.”
“This is a lifelong punishment. My daughter was supposed to perform my last rites, I never imagined we would do hers. They ruined my life,” she says. “Her innocence is what took her life,” she adds.
Neighbours say that Madhuri was a very quiet yet loving person, who mostly kept to herself. “My toddler spent most of her time in their house. She loved playing with both the girls. I even fed her at their place. They were so loving,” she added.
Madhuri’s family had been looking for an alliance for her, and were hoping to finalise by the end of the month. “Her wedding was supposed to be the next big event for us. We thought people will come home when she gets married, but they're coming for her death,” the mother cries, as neighbours console her.
No other woman should go through this, Madhuri’s mother says.
Ramya believes that true prevention can only happen if there is a mindset change. “You can punish people however much you want, but nothing can change until mindsets change,” she says.
Madhuri’s mother wants those who committed the heinous crime to be held accountable. “My daughter would have experienced hell. They should be punished,” she said.
With inputs from Priyanka Richi