32-year-old Porkudi was trapped in an abusive marriage. For the last nine years, this resident of Ramanathapuram was constantly sent by her husband Periyakannan to her maternal home to bring back money and even provisions for the house. A weeping Porkudi would come to her house and complain about her alcoholic husband who beat her up almost every day. But her family would keep sending her back, asking her to 'adjust'. Her mother would even accompany her to her husband's home and leave her at the doorstep.
"Society would have spoken badly if we kept her at home," explains her 38-year-old cousin Gunasekaran. "She had two children also. We've given money, rice and provisions whenever they asked, despite the financial stress on us. Her husband did not have a job. But my aunt kept sending her back after giving some advice," he adds.
On Monday, Porkudi's family received a call saying that her burnt body, covered in a sack was lying outside the house. The family rushed only to find her dead at the doorstop of Periyakannan's house.
"She was beaten up and then burnt by her husband who is an alcoholic," alleges Gunasekaran. "They were no signs of struggle of a person who had immolated themselves in that house. We believe she was already dead when they burnt her body. Her husband and his family is responsible for Porkudi's death," he adds.
The police have however classified this case as a suicide and haven't looked into the dowry harassment angle.
"It was just a problem between husband and wife. We have arrested 36-year-old Periyakannan," an investigating official confirms to TNM. "We have filed the case under section 174 (unnatural death) and section 306 (abetment to suicide). It can't be a dowry case because it has been over seven years since their marriage," he adds.
The anti dowry laws in India allow for a case of this nature to be filed only within the first seven years of marriage.
However, Akila RS, an advocate practicing at the Madras High Court points out that a dowry case can be included if it is proven that there was such a demand within the first seven years of marriage.
"We sent her back every-time because we are hardly making ends meet ourselves. We couldn't afford to have her at home too," says Porkudi's sister Kavitha. "We helped her as much as we could," she adds.
Porkudi's family now demands that Periyakannan and his parents be arrested for her death. "She was strong enough to handle all the torture they gave her. She is not one to commit suicide. They should all be on trial for murder," says Gunasekaran.