‘He beat me saying he deserved more gold, car’: Survivor of Kerala domestic violence

The torture came to light when the survivor's family visited her at her in-law’s house on May 12, just a week after the wedding.
Rahul P Gopal
Rahul P Gopal
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“We don’t want our child to be another Vismaya,” said the father of a domestic abuse survivor from Kerala who narrowly escaped death, referring to another woman from the state who died by suicide after dowry harassment by her husband in 2021. The 26-year-old survivor has endured brutal torture from her husband Rahul P Gopal, a Kozhikode native, allegedly over dowry, in the early hours of May 12, merely seven days after their wedding. 

When TNM met Neha* at her house on May 14, three days after she escaped a brief, toxic marriage, her left temple was swollen, her nose piercing still clotted with blood, and her ear injured. Yet, she tried to smile with a tired eye and face. 

She was still in shock that a seemingly lovable man, who had been quite friendly with her until recently, had revealed another face a week into their marriage. “He told me that he deserved a car and 150 sovereigns of gold as dowry. Then he started to beat me,” Neha said, recounting the horrific night. 

Rahul, who is an aeronautical engineer working in Germany, married the survivor on May 5 at the Guruvayoor temple. Neha works as an engineer in a private company in Thiruvananthapuram.

The incident took place on the seventh day of their marriage. “He beat me on my face, head, and ear. After a point, I almost lost consciousness. He shouted at me and kept telling me that he would kill me. Then he tried to kill me by strangling me with the cable of a phone charger. Luckily, I managed to get hold of the cable with my left hand and escaped narrowly. Then I tried to escape from the room but he dragged me to the bed and beat me using his belt. He pressed his fingernails into my lips and neck,” she recollected.

“I was not even able to call anyone, because my phone was with Rahul. Ever since the wedding, my phone has often been in Rahul’s custody. He was very sceptical about my relationships with colleagues. He even asked me to resign from my job and demanded that I stay with his family in Kozhikode. But I was not ready to do that,” she said. 

Neha’s father told TNM that they used to speak to her every day after the wedding. However, on the night of May 11, she didn’t answer their call.

After the brutal attack, Neha fell unconscious, seeing which Rahul and his friend, who was staying in the next room, took her to the hospital. “I don’t remember anything after a point. I remember seeing my nose bleeding. Later when I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital. I think the doctors understood what happened to me. They asked me if he had harmed me, but I was not able to talk. I just nodded my head,” she said. 

Neha said that after they came back home, he apologised to her. “He said sorry for beating me up. But how can I be certain that it will not happen again? How can I live with someone who tried to kill me once,” she asked.

She alleged that Rahul consumed alcohol a few hours before the incident. On the night of the incident, Neha and Rahul had attended a wedding in Kozhikode. “At the function, he drank alcohol. He then rode the bike at a very high speed and I was terribly scared. Once we reached home, he began to talk about dowry,” she said.

Neha also suspects that a conversation on dowry had taken place between Rahul and his mother on May 11 morning. “Rahul and his mother spoke in private in a room. When I asked him about it, he said I needn’t know that. His mother may have spoken to him about dowry,” she said, continuing “His mother has told me on multiple occasions that they expected more gold. It started to take a mental toll on me.”

Speaking of her interactions with Rahul before the wedding, Neha said, “He and his family didn’t make any dowry demands before the wedding. During our conversations before the wedding, he used to jokingly ask, ‘Can I get a car?’ I used to reply to it in jest. The recent cases of dowry deaths had made my father state very clearly that they would give me 75 sovereigns of gold. They didn’t ask for more. However, everything changed after marriage.” 

Neha and Rahul met each other through a matrimonial website. His family first visited her home to fix the alliance nearly a year back. “At first, his mother didn’t like our house. She made some excuses, like the grass in our yard was untrimmed, and said they did not wish to proceed with the alliance. He then got engaged to another woman, but the engagement was called off. I didn't know the reason for it then, but now I know that it too was because of demands for dowry from his family,” she told TNM.

Rahul once again approached Neha’s family, and they finally fixed the wedding. “We all liked him. ‘A well-behaved, financially secure man’: this was our impression of him at that time,” Neha’s brother said.

‘My family is a blessing’

“My family is a blessing. They supported me and stood by me. Even though I listened to Rahul initially, my family said they were not ready for any compromise and took me home,” she explained how her family’s support helped her exit the toxic marriage.

Neha’s family visited her in Kozhikode on May 12, expecting to see Neha waiting for them at the main door. “We reached there around noon, but nobody welcomed us. Even Neha was not there when we entered the house. When we asked where Neha was, they said she was taking a shower and would come down soon. After some time she came down, but we didn’t recognise her for a minute,” her brother recounted the shock. “Her face was swollen and her body was bruised. Her nose and ears had blood stains and she looked tired. Rahul’s family, however, said that they were not aware of what had happened,” he said.

When Neha’s family asked about the wounds on her body, both her and Rahul’s family said she fell in the washroom. But her family felt something was wrong. On repeated questioning, she opened up about the horrific night of May 11 and the early hours of May 12. 

The family first took her to Feroke Taluk Hospital and then went to the Pantheerankavu police station and lodged a complaint. “I found out that the police had not recorded my statement clearly. We have filed a complaint with the Paravur police back home. I believe that I will get justice from here,” she said. “The Pantheerankavu police were not cooperative with us. They asked us, ‘Isn't this natural?’” her brother said.

Her father also complained to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Women's Commission of Kerala. “Rahul’s family requested a compromise. But if we are ready for a compromise, it is equal to permitting her murder,” Neha’s father told TNM. 

He also expressed his disappointment that the police FIR didn’t include charges of attempt to murder. “They booked him under bailable offences. It could have been in an attempt to save him. He needs to go back to Germany on May 26,” said Neha’s father.

As per the FIR, Rahul has been booked under sections 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means), and 498 A (domestic violence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Neha’s family confirmed that now the police added an attempt to murder charge and the investigation team is on the way to Ernakulam to record Neha’s statement. 

State Women’s Commission chairperson P Sathidevi told the media that the police were initially lackadaisical in dealing with the complaint. TNM contacted the Circle Inspector of Pantheerankavu police station, but he refused to comment. 

Meanwhile, Rahul is reportedly missing from his home from May 14. Rahul’s mother said that it is true that he had left home on May 14 and claimed to not know his whereabouts. She told the media that some arguments had taken place between her son and the survivor, and that he had beaten her. However, she refuted the allegations of dowry harassment. 

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