The police were tipped-off by a 17-year-old boy who refused to believe that his girlfriend had succumbed to heart attack. On October 2, as they rushed to the spot, retrieving the body from the funeral pyre, the Nashik (Rural) police knew that a delay of a few minutes would have meant loss of crucial evidence of an alleged murder. The intervention led to the arrest of the 17-year-old girl’s parents and her cousin accused of strangling her to death in a case of alleged honour killing in Malegaon.
The accused have now been remanded in judicial custody after eight days of police custody. The three have been booked under IPC sections 302 (murder), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison), 201(causing disappearance of evidence), and 34 (offence done by several with common intention).
The victim, a Class XII Commerce student, belonged to the Teli caste while the boy, her classmate, is from Burud caste, both Other Backward Class. They were in a relationship since 2017. “For the parents, it was not just a question of inter-caste, they were against their daughter’s relationship at such a young age,” said Sub-inspector Rahul Patil, Chavani police station, Malegaon Camp.
On October 1, on the victim’s birthday, her father was informed by an acquaintance that the girl was spotted in a temple on the outskirts of Malegaon with a boy. Within three hours, police sources said, the parents planned her murder. By afternoon, the girl’s mother visited a local shop to buy 20 sleeping pills.
In a statement to the police, the girl’s father said he and his wife had been asking their daughter for a year to stop seeing the boy, saying “samaaj me badnaami hogi (it will dishonor us in society)”.
An FIR copy, accessed by The Indian Express, states that they waited for the girl to return home on October 1 and ordered dinner from a restaurant to celebrate her birthday. “The parents mixed the sleeping pills in her food and waited for her to sleep. At 9.30 pm, they called her cousin,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Ajit Hagawane.
In his statement, the girl’s father (41) allegedly admitted that on the night of the murder, while he held his daughter’s legs, the mother held her hands and the cousin strangulated her.
Around 1.30 am on October 2, the girl’s parents carried her body in an autorickshaw to a hospital, about 2.5 km from their house. They were asked to go to another hospital. Later, the girl was taken to another private hospital. The family was then asked to go to Malegaon Civil Hospital.
According to the police, when the doctor referred them to a civil hospital, the couple got scared of a possible police case and brought the body home. “We called our relatives and informed them that she had fever and suffered a heart attack,” the girl’s father said in his statement to the police on October 4.
“When I came to know in the morning through a friend that she died suddenly, I knew it could not be a heart attack,” the 17-year-old boy, who stays about 4 km away from the victim’s house, told the police in his statement on October 4. Earlier, on October 2 at 10.40 am, he called up the police control room to alert them. Police Naik Balkrishna Pajai said: “When we reached, the body was already on the pyre. The family protested when we demanded to take custody. After a lot of struggle, we took the body to the civil hospital.”
The post-mortem findings indicated that the girl died “due to cardio-respiratory attack due to spinal cord injury due to atlanto-occipital joint” suggestive of strangulation.
“Since the two are minors, local people are in shock over the murder,” Pajai said adding, “But there is peace, so far.”
According to police officers in Malegaon, the area has a population of about 15 lakh, with Burud caste comprising 1,000 people living in small settlements and over 30,000 from the Teli caste, who stay in the town area.