She’d become like a skeleton: Family of Kerala woman starved to death in deep shock

According to Thushara’s family, her husband Chandulal and mother-in-law Geethalal started ill-treating her as they did not get the Rs 2 lakh dowry they had demanded.
She’d become like a skeleton: Family of Kerala woman starved to death in deep shock
She’d become like a skeleton: Family of Kerala woman starved to death in deep shock
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On December 9, 2013, a newly-wed Thushara entered her husband Chandulal’s house in Kollam with her trousseau and 20 sovereigns of gold that her parents gave her. It was not just the gold, her parents had also given a ‘written agreement’ to her husband’s family to give Rs 2 lakh and a share in property “to their daughter”, in three years. But little did the then 22-year-old Thushara realise that this agreement would eventually culminate in her death on March 21, 2019.

She was physically tortured, mentally abused, locked in a room, starved and reportedly kept under a “black magic spell” by her husband and mother-in-law Geethalal, all because of the regressive and illegal practice of giving and receiving dowry.

On March 21, Thushara succumbed to the prolonged abuse of her in-laws. She was taken to the hospital but was declared brought dead.

“When we saw her body at the mortuary, she was nothing but a skeleton with skin and hair,” Thushara’s aunt, who did not wish to be named, tells TNM. According to the post-mortem reports, Thushara weighed only 20 kg. The accused even admitted that they denied her proper food and gave her only sugared water and soaked rice, just enough to keep her breathing.

‘They made her turn against us’

Thushara’s aunt said they started noticing changes in the attitude of Thushara’s in-laws towards them three months after the wedding, when Chandulal started demanding dowry. “We had promised to give Rs 2 lakh as dowry in three years, but they started torturing her in the third month itself,” Thushara’s aunt says.

“That was also when our means of communication and any interaction with Thushara were disconnected. Chandulal took away her phone. When we contacted him, he used to make excuses to not let her talk to us,” she says.

When Thushara was pregnant with her first child, her family tried to contact her over the phone and even visit her.

“But Chandulal’s family convinced us that they would take care of her delivery. They eventually even made Thushara turn against us. We didn’t know they indulged in occult practices. But when we finally managed to see her, she told us: ‘I have no problem here; I am fine. Why have you come here?’. We assumed our visits would cause her problems and so we decided to stay away for some time,” the aunt recalls.

When Thushara was expecting her second child, again her family tried to visit her. “We were ready to meet her with gifts and take her home per our customs. But her mother-in-law told us Thushara could go with us if she wanted, but she couldn’t come back to their house,” the aunt says.

Chandulal’s brother-in-law later intervened and informed the parents that they could take Thushara home after her delivery. “Accordingly, we calculated her due date and tried to contact her. All our efforts to see her fell through. We finally learnt that Thushara had given birth to the baby through a caesarean procedure, three days after the delivery on June 9, 2017,” she adds.

When Thushara’s mother and aunt reached the hospital, Chandulal reportedly started threatening them.

“He even said that if we tried to intervene or see her again, we will be taking Thushara’s dead body with us,” the aunt says, adding, “Although he tried to stop us, we somehow managed to see Thushara in the hospital. Even when nobody was in the room except her mother and me, Thushara maintained that she was fine. She asked us the same question: ‘Why are you visiting me frequently and disturbing me?’ She maintained a similar answer when her neighbours tried to enquire about her situation.”

“I thought my daughter was leading a comfortable life. I never suspected anything untoward,” her mother tells TNM in a feeble tone.

After Thushara’s body was taken to the mortuary, her aunt says, Chandulal left the hospital and asked some other person to inform her family about her death.

Loan to pay dowry

Thushara’s family, who had taken a loan for her wedding, finally managed to pay off the loan in March. Soon after paying off this loan, the family took another loan, to pay the amount promised as “dowry”.

“Since we could not give the Rs 2 lakh after three years, our family members decided to pay Rs 1 lakh extra to compensate for the delay. And so, we took a loan of Rs 3 lakh, which will get sanctioned this month. Our family had decided to go in person to their house and give this amount. But that was when we received the tragic news of her death,” the aunt tells TNM.

Meanwhile, Thushara’s children (aged 4 years and 1 year 9 months) continue to be under the protection of Kollam Childline. “We have given a request to the Childline authorities to grant us custody of the children. The process is still going on,” Thushara’s mother says.

“If we had got to Thushara a year-and-a-half back, we could have revived her. We are ready to go to any extent to ensure she gets justice. We will not let them get away with it,” her mother says.

National Commission for Women seeks action

Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women has taken cognisance of the incident via a media report and directed the DGP and Kerala Police Chief, Loknath Behera, to take necessary action.

“The Commission is seriously disturbed by the inhumane treatment meted out to the woman. Considering the gravity of the matter, it is requested that the matter be investigated and appropriate action be taken as per the relevant provision of law. Accordingly, feedback may be sent to the Commission in the matter by e-mail/fax,” the letter read.

The State Human Rights Commission has also taken a suo motu case based on media reports. The case will be considered at the Commission in Kottarakkara on April 26. 

Commission member K  Mohan Kumar has also directed Kollam District Police Chief PK Madhu to submit a detailed report in the case within three weeks.

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