Trolls are maligning my murdered husband, says Amrutha, pleads for hurtful comments to stop.
Miryalaguda: The family of a Telangana Dalit man, killed at the behest of his upper caste father-in-law, is not only grappling with grief but vicious trolling on social media.
Pranay Kumar, 24, a Dalit Christian, was hacked to death at Miryalaguda town in Telangana’s Nalgonda district on 14 September. The Nalgonda police say that the assailant had been hired by the victim’s father-in-law Maruthi Rao.
Pranay’s pregnant wife, Amrutha Varshini, 21, told ThePrint that a Facebook page dedicated to Pranay, created after his death, is now seeing an onslaught of sarcastic and hurtful comments, maligning her husband and supporting her father.
“(They are) lower castes when it comes to reservations, but when it comes to marriage, (they think) all castes are equal? To what extent is that fair?” reads a comment by Veliganda Rajendra Verma, posted on the page Monday.
“In movies, father-in-laws (sic) were shown as villains, but in reality they are the real heroes,” another Facebook post by Sirimalla Naveen Kumar reads.
“To bring awareness/education in Telugu speaking states, a statue of Maruthi Rao should be installed in every village with a warning board stating that people like Maruthi Rao are here,” reads a post by Sandesh Nanda. “Then a girl like Amrutha will not go in the wrong path, and boys like Pranay will not get killed”.
Amrutha says that the family now wants the trolling on social media to stop. “The things they’re saying about Pranay are not true. I request everyone to not believe what they’re saying. Please stop with the messages,” Amrutha says.
Ajay, Pranay’s brother, is equally upset and hurt. He says that some of the trolls target the fact that his brother quit engineering in his final year.
“They are saying that Pranay hadn’t finished studies but that’s only because Maruthi Rao threatened him so much that he had to leave college,” says Ajay, an MBBS student in Ukraine.
“Please get clarity on the situation. Don’t be influenced by casteist people… Casteism is the main problem in our country. Every student should rise against the caste system,” Ajay says.
Murder in Miryalaguda
Pranay had been attacked by a contract killer wielding a machete, while he was returning with Amrutha, who had just undergone a routine prenatal check-up. The couple was accompanied by his mother, Premlata.
The Nalgonda police say Amrutha’s father, T. Maruthi Rao, who belongs to the influential Vaishya community, hired the assailant for Rs 1 crore. He has been arrested, along with six others, and charged under various sections including that of murder and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
“I saw Pranay’s body after two days, no one had informed me what had happened. I was shocked and very scared,” Amrutha, who married Pranay on 30 January, told ThePrint.
A defiant Amrutha also says that she has decided to name their child Pranay if it is a boy. “He was so excited about being a father; he loved our baby very much,” she says.
Love across caste lines
Amrutha says she met Pranay when they were in high-school. She grew up in a wealthy household, with a father who belongs to the politically connected Vaishya caste, while he was the son of an LIC officer.
“He was my senior, and we were friends. I met him six or seven times in these seven years, that’s it, not more than that,” she says.
Pranay’s father, P. Balaswami, says their relationship survived multiple warnings from both families and nearly a decade of distance. “They have waited for 7-8 years; they waited to get married. Who waits for so long, you tell me?” he asks.
“We warned him multiple times that their marriage was going to cause trouble; that her caste and social status was different and that Maruthi Rao would never accept it,” his father tells ThePrint. “At the time he asked me ‘What is caste daddy? Who decides these things? I love her and I will take care of her, what does caste matter then?’”
Pranay’s family had anticipated trouble from Maruthi Rao and had got CCTV cameras installed in their residential premises two weeks after the wedding.
“I expected that he would beat her and take her away. I did not expect him to kill my son,” says Balaswami.
Family wants law to protect inter-caste couples
Pranay’s family wants capital punishment for Maruthi Rao, and those like him, who kill inter-caste couples in the name of ‘honour.’ Amrutha says her fight is now to ensure this never happens to anyone else.
The family is now, along with numerous Dalit rights activists, students, and social workers, taking part in rallies in Miryalaguda to push for a ‘Pranay Act’ — legislation that they hope will hold the government accountable for providing protection to inter-caste couples.
To make their message clear, “that no one should divide along caste lines”, Amrutha says the family also wants a statue of Pranay in Miryalaguda. “So that it stands as a symbol to the upper castes that Dalit voices will not stay silent,” Balaswami adds.
Balaswami is also determined to make sure that Amrutha is safe and comfortable.
“She has to give birth because this is also a message to the country: Don’t kill and don’t divide caste-based marriages,” he says. “Whatever Amrutha wants — even if she wants to go to her mother, live abroad or in any other state — I will provide for her.”
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