A day after 23-year-old Shehna Shaji, a native of Thiruvallam in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram died by suicide, her family alleged that she was subjected to constant torture from her husband and mother-in-law. Shehna passed away on Tuesday, 26 December, by alleged suicide after her husband Noufal reportedly took their son away for a birthday function. The police have registered a case against Noufal and his mother Sunitha based on a complaint filed by Shehna’s family.
Shehna and Noufal got married three years ago in 2020, and their child is two years old. However, she has been living with her parents for the last three months due to alleged physical abuse from her mother-in-law.
Noufal is said to have gone to her home on Tuesday evening, asking her to accompany him to his brother’s child’s birthday function. Shehna refused to go and Noufal allegedly took their son with him to his car. According to one of her relatives, he asked her to get in the car within 30 minutes and threatened to leave with the child otherwise. After this incident, she went to her room and closed the door.
“If anything happened, she would go to her room and sit alone for some time. This was a habit for her. So I thought she would cry and come back soon. But I don’t know why she did this, we were all by her side. Why did she not think about the kid?” her mother asked, bursting into tears.
“I was also there at that time,” Shehna’s father’s brother Shahid told TNM. “I went there after knowing that Noufal had come to bring her back. But after reaching there, I got to know that he only came to take her for the birthday function,” he said. “Everything happened within a few minutes,” Shehna’s mother added.
After she went to the room, Noufal went to Kattakkada with the child and Shehna’s family found her dead in the room. They took her to the Ananthapuri Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, where the doctor confirmed her death at around 6.30 pm. Relatives say that on the same night, Noufal brought the child back to her family.
Noufal's mother allegedly physically abused Shehna three months ago at the Lords Hospital in Anayara, when Noufal was admitted there for surgery. On the day of surgery, the nurse asked for a signature from the guardian and Shehna signed the document. Noufal’s mother did not like it and physically abused her. “She gave her signature because the nurse asked her to do it. She was his wife. But his mother said she had no right to do that and beat her up,” Shahid said.
Shehna’s father did not want to file a complaint though the hospital suggested he do so. “Noufal was in the hospital, so her father did not want to trouble him. What if this affected his medical care,” Shahid said.
After this incident at the hospital, Shehna came back to her home in Thiruvallam and did not show any interest in going back. “One day she asked us why we sent her to that hell,” Shahid continued, saying, “It was not a love marriage. We arranged this marriage.”
According to her friends who studied with her at the BNV Vocational and Higher Secondary School Thiruvallam, she was married just after completing plus two and was not interested in getting married at the time. She also had to discontinue her studies post-marriage. Noufal and his family saw her at a restaurant and came to her parents with a proposal. “They said they don’t want anything (in dowry), but we gave her 75 sovereigns of gold and registered the house in her name,” Shahid added.
After the marriage, she complained to her parents that her husband’s family did not treat her well because financially, her family was not as well placed as his. After Noufal’s brother's marriage, this discrimination became more evident. “Once they said that they had picked her up from a trash can, which hurt my child more than anything,” Shahid recalled.
When Shehna was eight months pregnant, Noufal’s family verbally asked for a divorce and said they could not live with her, but later they had reached a compromise.
A police investigation is underway in the case, and they are in the process of recording statements. Meanwhile, Shehna’s relatives protested in front of the Fort Assistant Commissioner’s office in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding action against the alleged culprits.
Shehna’s funeral will be held at the Pachalloor Juma Masjid on the evening of December 27.
If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.
Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chaithram: 0484 2361161
Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.
State health department's suicide helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584
Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222
State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104
Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200
SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 am and 7 pm
Aasara offers support to individuals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.
24x7 Helpline: 9820466726
Click here for working helplines across India.