Chennai intercaste couple deaths: Families blame each other, seek CBCID probe

Sharmila’s family has alleged that they suspect foul play in their daughter’s death and that the suicide note was planted by Praveen’s family a week after she attempted suicide.
Sharmila and Praveen
Sharmila and Praveen
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TW: Suicide 

Praveen, a 22-year-old Dalit man from the Pariyar caste, was killed on February 24 for marrying a girl from the Yadava caste (classified as Other Backward Class) in Chennai’s Pallikaranai. On April 22, within two months of Praveen’s death, his wife Sharmila died by suicide. One of Sharmila’s brothers, Dinesh, was among the five arrested by the police in connection to Praveen’s murder. Now, a suicide note purportedly written by Sharmila has emerged, supporting her earlier allegations that her parents and eldest brother Naresh had abetted the crime that resulted in Praveen’s murder and her suicide. 

Sharmila’s family not only pleaded innocent but claimed that the handwriting in the alleged suicide note didn’t match that of Sharmila’s. Her eldest brother, Naresh, told TNM, "The suicide note has been found after a week. Why didn't they recover it the day the attempt to suicide took place? We have our doubts about that note. Someone else seems to have written it. It's not Sharmila’s handwriting. We will be filing a complaint on Praveen’s family because we think that they had a role to play in my sister's death." 

Sharmila had attempted to die by suicide on April 14 but survived as she was immediately admitted to a hospital. She was shifted for further treatment to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) on April 15 by Praveen’s family. She succumbed to injuries on Monday, April 22.

Praveen’s family has refused to accept Sharmila’s mortal remains unless Praveen’s murder probe was transferred to CB-CID. They have also requested the videotaping of Sharmila’s post-mortem and that the autopsy be performed by a doctor from another district.

They have also alleged that the police have been supporting Sharmila’s family.

G Chitra, Sharmila’s mother-in-law, said, “I was in the hospital by her side since April 14. I came home only on April 23, and we noticed her suicide note in a diary.” 

“She seemed normal on the outside. She had even spoken to us and our lawyer about continuing her education. We paid her exam fee as well in the first week of April. Her suicide attempt made us realise how much she was hurting without telling us. She was even going for counselling,” Chitra added. 

‘Unhappy with police investigation’

Sriram (18), Vishnu (23), Dinesh (24), Jothi Lingam (25), and Stephen Kumar (24) were the five men accused of killing Praveen, the police said. They have been charged under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 3(2) (v) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Praveen’s family has maintained his murder could have been prevented. 

Sharmila had earlier told TNM that she was threatened by her eldest brother Naresh and that her father, Durai Kumar, had threatened to kill the couple after they got married in October 2023. She had said that she approached the police to take her written complaint but that the police refused to accept it.  

Varoon M, the director of Padhai Kuzhu, an NGO providing legal assistance to Praveen’s family, told TNM that the T14 Pallikaranai police’s SI had made inquiries about Sharmila’s statement recorded with the magistrate under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). “The statement was recorded with the Magistrate and the typist alone on camera on April 8. But T14 SI Yogalakshmi had tried to coach Sharmila about what she should and shouldn’t say before they recorded the statement,” he told TNM. Chitra, in her complaint to the Tambaram Commissioner, also added that Yogalakshmi had told Sharmila not to implicate Durai Kumar, Sarala and Naresh.

TNM reached out to SI Yogalakshmi and the case Investigation Officer Christin Jayasal, who denied the allegations. Christin told TNM that he received a copy of the 164 statement in which Sharmila had mentioned her sister-in-law without a name. “I wanted to clarify who that sister-in-law was. Since it wouldn’t be right for me to speak to Sharmila, I had asked the lady SI Yogalakshmi to clarify that alone. There were no other interactions regarding the 164 statement,” he clarified.

According to Varoon, Sharmila lost hope in the investigation after the police contacted her because she felt the police were protecting her family. 

Sharmila was also said to be upset about her brother, Dinesh, and Jothi Lingam applying for bail on April 8. As per the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, an accused cannot apply for bail before 60 days. But Dinesh and Jothi had applied for bail within 42 days, and the court had posted the bail hearing on April 12, Varoon said. “The police came with a notice to appear in court only on the evening of April 11,” Chitra claimed. As per rules, the notice should be sent to the victim’s family three days prior, Varoon pointed out. When the family appeared in court on April 12, the police were allegedly absent.

The IO, however, said that the police only received communication from the court on April 11 and that they had immediately communicated it to the family. He also stated that the police were present in court on April 12.

Chitra told TNM, “I thought that even though my son was dead, he had left Sharmila for us in his place. But the police’s actions seemed to have caused such distress to Sharmila and now we have lost her as well. If they hadn’t killed Praveen, our kids would have lived their lives somewhere.” 

After Praveen’s murder, a compensation of Rs 12 lakh was announced by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. The family has received only 50% of the amount so far.

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.

Tamil Nadu

State Health Department’s suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584


Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 6500022


Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

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.

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