A 30-year-old Sikh woman allegedly died by suicide at her Richmond-based residence in New York on August 3, accusing her husband of domestic violence and also naming his parents as responsible for her plight.
Mandeep Kaur, 30, shared a video where she is heard saying that she cannot tolerate any more violence at the hands of her husband Ranjodhbeer Singh Sandhu and has decided to commit suicide. Both Mandeep and her husband are from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. The couple has two daughters, aged six and four. Sandhu is a truck driver.
In the nearly-five-minute video, Mandeep is heard saying, “Aj main maran da decision lain lagiyan. (I have decided to end my life today). I am in a very pitiable condition. I tried my best, but I cannot tolerate the daily beatings now. For eight years, I have been undergoing daily beatings and accepting his bad behaviour in a hope that he will mend his ways one day”.
She further says that she didn’t want to leave her two daughters behind “but now I cannot tolerate this torture anymore and am taking this extreme step”.
Mandeep also alleged that her husband had several extramarital affairs over the years. “After seeing the torture inflicted on me, my father got him (Sandhu) booked in a case. Then he pleaded… and got off,” Mandeep said, adding that her husband once held her hostage for five days and beat her up.
She also accused her mother-in-law of verbally abusing her family and prompting Sndhu to torture her.
Several videos of Sandhu hitting and torturing her — mostly CCTV footage from the couple’s home — were shared on social media. In one such purported video, the man is seen assaulting and trying to strangle her as their daughters are heard crying and asking him not to hit their mother. In another such purported video, her husband is heard verbally abusing her and saying he wanted a son, not daughters.
At her native village Taharpur in Bijnor’s Najibabad tehsil, Mandeep’s younger sister Kuldeep Kaur said that they talked over the phone on Tuesday. “She told me how her husband keeps beating her and how he had been cheating on her. We had no idea that Mandeep would take such an extreme step,” Kuldeep said talking to The Indian Express.
Kuldeep said that Mandeep and Sandhu, who hailed from Bariya village of the district, had got married eight years ago. She claimed that Sandhu had earlier been deported from New Zealand before he went to the US where he worked in Miami for some time before starting his transport business.
Mandeep’s father Jaspal Singh is a farmer. The family said they will seek custody of Mandeep’s daughters. They also appealed to the government and the Sikh community in the US to help bring her body to India.
In a statement, Sikh Women’s Aid, a UK-based organisation that offers support to domestic and sexual abuse victims from the community, said it was not sharing many other videos and photos of the ‘young Sikh mother’ as they showed her bleeding and bruised. “She describes a life of abuse, belittling and violence,” it said.
Gurmit Singh, the CEO of New York-based Apna Punjab Media, which runs a newspaper and news channel for the Sikh community and Punjabi diaspora, told The Indian Express from Richmond Hill over the phone that Mandeep was a neighbour and the couple had moved to the US eight years ago.
“When we came to know about the suicide, we protested. The police here have not registered any case against her husband and are treating it as a case of suicide. We are trying that the Sikh Culture Society, which is an organisation under Sikh Gurdwara in Richmond Hill, should get the custody of the two minor girls,” said Gurmit, adding that they were trying to contact the woman’s family in UP.
He said Sandhu wanted to cremate the body “but people of our community” did not let him do so. “The body is kept at the funeral place and will send it to India to her parents at our expense,” Gurmeet said.
He said a campaign, “Justice for Mandeep”, has been launched in Richmond and people are protesting in Richmond demanding that her husband be booked. A similar campaign has been launched on social media too.
US-based director of North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) Satnam Singh Chahal, meanwhile, told The Indian Express that Mandeep was not the only Sikh woman facing domestic violence in the US. “There are several who are suffering it, but are silent because of the ‘honour’ involved,” said Chahal.
In its statement, the Sikh Women’s Aid said they conducted a domestic homicide review on Sikh women who were murdered by their husbands. “Our recent survey showed that 70 per cent of all respondents had suffered some form of domestic abuse while 35 per cent had experienced sexual abuse and exploitation as children. The Sikh community is in a crisis, and the number of deaths of women to domestic abuse is rising,” it added.