Vismaya V Nair, a 22-year-old woman, was found dead on Monday morning at the house of her husband's family in Sasthamnada near Sasthamkotta in Kollam district. Her death came two days after she sent messages to her cousin telling him that her husband had brutally beaten her many times over a car that was given as part of her dowry. Vismaya, a final year Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery student, got married to S Kiran Kumar, an official at the Motor Vehicle Department, in March 2020.
In the messages she sent, Vismaya told her cousin that she has faced severe assault. She wrote about how after assaulting her, her husband allegedly pulled back her hair and stamped on her face. She says in the message that she has not told anyone about the assault. The photos she shared with her cousin show injuries on her face, shoulder and hands.
The woman's family has registered a complaint with the police that it was a murder and that Vismaya was harassed for dowry. Kerala Women's Commission has taken a case suo motto on Vismaya's death. According to her father Thrivrikaman Nair, the family had given 100 sovereigns, one acre of land and a Toyota Yaris car as dowry. However, Kiran allegedly wanted cash instead of the car and insisted that Vismaya’s family sell the car.
Thrivrikaman Nair told TNM that they knew he assaulted her earlier too. “Once he came home with her, all drunk after a party. When they reached home, he beat her and when my son went to ask about it, Kiran hit him too. We reported it to the patrol police who then had an altercation with Kiran. Finally he was taken to the police station. However, the Circle Inspector and Kiran’s family called us for a compromise. My son said that let’s let it go this time. After that my daughter stayed at my home. But two months ago, when she went to college (in Pandalam), to write her BAMS exams, Kiran picked her up and took her to his home. She didn't come home after that.”
Thrivrikaman said that Vismaya would call only her mother after that, but not the father or brother. “I learnt about all that only now. She had told my wife about Kiran beating her up. Two days ago she messaged my cousin asking him to take her home during the time Kiran went to work.”
They became aware of the Whatsapp conversations between Vismaya and the cousin, detailing the abuse she faced, only today. It was an arranged marriage for Vismaya and Kiran.
Vismaya's brother Vijith P Nair, in a broken voice, said that it was a murder and pleaded to the government to give them justice so that no one else would go through this.
"We registered the case as soon as we got information that it was dowry harassment. After that the victim's brother contacted me and sent me the images and WhatsApp conversations of the woman, concerning the harassment she faced. The Women's Commission has asked Kollam Rural Superintendent of Police (SP) to submit a report. We have also asked to have the post mortem done at a hospital chosen by the woman's family," says Women’s Commission member Shahida Kamal who registered the case.
The brother informed the Commission about the harassment that Vismaya used to face at her husband's house. "Since the marriage is within ten years it will be a case of dowry harassment even if her death is by suicide," Shahida added.
Rural SP KB Ravi said that the investigation is only starting and a case has been registered under section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure - relating to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage in any circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person committed an offence in relation to such a woman.
The Sooranadu Station House Officer said that the inquest has been done and more investigations will be taken up once the post mortem is complete. Vismaya's body has been taken to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College for autopsy.
The rights of women who are subjected to domestic abuse are protected under the law, including the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, if a husband or relative(s) subjects the woman to cruelty that causes grave injuries (physically or mentally) — by making unlawful demand of property or valuable or for not meeting such demands — he or they will be punished with imprisonment of upto three years and fine. Besides, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 makes the practice of giving and taking dowry illegal.
Women who are subjected to domestic abuse or any person who is aware of such a situation can reach out to helplines that offer assistance. The Scheme of Universalisation of Women Helpline (WHL) number 181 is a 24 hours helpline that provides immediate and emergency response to women affected by violence in public and private spaces. The helpline links to police, hospital or other authorities concerned. Even if the woman is interrupted during the call or is unable to specify her problem or address due to an illness or a disability, WHL will trace the call and initiate an emergency response. The helpline staff will maintain the confidentiality of the caller.