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‘Begged bystanders, touched feet, no one helped’, says wife of Hyderabad ‘honour killing’ victim

The family of a Dalit man who was allegedly murdered by his Muslim wife’s relatives Wednesday claims police ignored couple’s protection request. NHRC has sought report on incident.

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Hyderabad: If bystanders had responded when she begged them for help, Ashrin Sultana believes her husband, Billipuram Nagaraju, might have survived the brutal attack on him by her relatives.

At about 9pm Wednesday, on a busy street in Hyderabad’s Saroornagar, two men wielding knives and rods accosted Nagaraju, 25, and proceeded to launch a deadly assault on him while Sultana, 23, tried in vain to stop them.

They were out for Nagaraju’s blood, police have said, because the Dalit youth had married their Muslim sister against their wishes. The police arrested Sultana’s brother, Syed Mobin Ahmed, and brother-in-law, Mohammed Masood Ahmed, Thursday for the attack.

“In the initial investigation, [one of] the accused told us that he was unhappy that the girl married someone outside their community, a senior police officer told ThePrint.

Telangana Municipal Administration and IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao has thanked the police for “swift action”, and said that that the accused must be given the harshest of punishments.

Sultana, however, believes the passive onlookers and society at large were in some way culpable too.

“There were a lot of people on that road, on foot and on bikes… but not one came to help. I begged them, touched their feet, but no one tried to stop the attack. My husband was being beaten with an iron rod — so much so that his flesh had come out. He was attacked with knives,” an inconsolable Sultana, who also goes by the name Pallavi, told ThePrint.

“After my husband died, a hundred people gathered around his body. Why did these people not stop and try to help when the attack was going on?” she asked.

Sultana also said that she and Nagaraju knew that they were in danger ever since they tied the knot in January and had sought police protection.

Raju’s family further alleged that, upon making the request, the couple were just told to lie low.

“Despite seeking police protection, my brother was killed. Why did the police not do their duty, why did they ignore their plea for protection?” Nagaraju’s sister Rama Devi said.

ThePrint called the Mominpet police station, where the request for protection was reportedly placed, but did not receive a response.

In a statement released Friday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said it had taken note of the “suspected honour killing” and had issued notices to the chief secretary and director general of police (DGP), Telangana, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.

The chief secretary has been requested to explain whether the state government “has any policy to prevent such incidents of honour killing in cases of inter-caste/inter-religion marriage”, the statement said.

The DGP, it added, has been asked to provide information on the investigation, steps taken to safeguard the victim’s wife and family, and “whether there were any lapses on the part of the police authorities in this case”.

Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan has also sought a detailed report from the state government on the incident.

Also Read: Stolen glances to stolen lives: Stories behind the ‘honour killings’ of Rajasthan, Haryana

CCTVs, phone cameras captured ‘pre-planned’ murder

On Wednesday night, Sultana and Nagaraju, who worked as a marketing executive in an automobile showroom, were returning to their home from his sister’s place when they were waylaid by the attackers in Saroornagar.

In purported visuals of the assault, captured on CCTV cameras and mobile videos, two men can be seen ruthlessly thrashing Nagaraju, leaving him in a pool of blood. Sultana is seen trying to stop the attack by lying on top of her husband to shield him from the blows, but is pushed aside roughly.

After a while, local residents can be seen intervening and hitting the attackers, but by then it was already too late.

“By the time people came to help, my husband was already dead. Had everyone pelted stones at the accused initially, the attack could have been stopped. How many people does it require to stop a few attackers?” Sultana said. “Is this the value of someone’s life in society? This place we are all in is not a society.”

A statement from Rachakonda police, under whose jurisdiction Saroornagar falls, describes how both the accused had been trying to track down the couple for about a month before the attack.

Sultana and Nagaraju at their wedding | Photo by special arrangement

“Since the time of the marriage, the accused (brother) developed a grudge against the deceased and hatched a plan to kill the boy… A month ago, both the accused tried to locate the deceased but failed to identify his location. On 4 May, the accused started searching the location of the deceased, they followed them and attacked the boy,” the statement said.

A senior police officer told ThePrint on condition of anonymity that “the accused tracked the movements of the couple using this feature of finding a device using their credentials.”

Childhood friends, ‘asked for police protection’

Nagaraju and Sultana grew up together in Vikarabad district on the outskirts of Hyderabad, and studied in the same school and college. Their friendship blossomed into a romantic relationship about five years ago.

While their relationship is said to have met with resistance from both families, Sultana’s had a far more aggressive response, especially her brother Syed Mobin Ahmed.

“I warned Raju several times that my brother will kill him if we went ahead with our relationship, but he was stubborn and said he wanted to live with me,” Sultana said. “Raju was even ready to convert to Islam for me and he even mentioned this to my mother.”

According to Sultana, her brother not only warned her he would kill Nagaraju if she continued the relationship, but also beat her. She further alleged that her brother had also physically attacked her father, who died five years ago due to a cardiac arrest, since he was privy to the relationship.

Despite all of this, the couple eloped and got married in January at an Arya Samaj temple in Old Hyderabad. Sultana adopted Hinduism at the time of the wedding and was given the name Pallavi.

The very next day, she claimed, the couple approached Mominpet police seeking protection due to threats from her family members, and then also made the same request to Vikarabad police.

According to Raju’s family members, the police had asked the couple to keep a low profile and not venture out much, but did not provide protection.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also Read: Sex trafficking & rape horror in Andhra: How case of Dalit teen busted ring of 65 men & 15 women


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