Less than a year ago, Dinesh received a picture on his phone of his elder brother Sombir, a Dalit, marrying the Jat woman he loved in a temple. Now, seated in their family’s home at a village in Rohtak, he wonders how it came to this.
The couple, looking delighted in the wedding pictures, are now worlds apart. While Sombir is in prison on charges of forging documents to show the woman’s age as 18 instead of 17, his wife’s body lies in a mortuary as uncertainty prevails over who will cremate it.
The woman was shot dead two days ago outside a district court where she had gone to appear in connection with the case against Sombir. It is alleged that her relatives got her killed for eloping with and marrying a man from a lower caste.
“We have arrested four people, the woman’s foster parents and biological parents, and are conducting investigation to nab others who may have been involved,” said Rohtak SP Jashandeep Singh Randhawa.
In a statement late Friday night, the police said the accused had revealed during questioning that the crime had been planned around July 25. “They have revealed that they were unhappy with her love marriage and planned the crime with one of her cousins, who roped in his friends from Uttar Pradesh for the crime,” said Rohtak Police PRO Shamsher Singh.
“We have added the SC/ST Act charges to the FIR. The investigation will now be conducted by DSP Ramesh Kumar,” said Inspector Sunita, SHO, Arya Nagar police station. Sombir’s family, in their complaint, had earlier said they were receiving threats from the woman’s family.
Sombir’s family thinks the woman’s relatives have “no right” to perform her last rites. “They are the ones accused of the crime, how can they carry out the cremation?” asks Dinesh.
“Sombir wants to attend the funeral, and even we want to perform the last rites, but we are concerned for his safety and our own. Also, people here will not take well to a Dalit performing last rites of a Jat woman. Violence may break out,” he said. According to police sources, the woman’s family too has refused to cremate her.
The Haryana State Commission for Women (HSCW), meanwhile, has offered to perform the last rites. “If this is a case of honour killing, the woman’s relatives cannot be given the right to cremate her. The first right is of the husband or his family. If they refuse, the district administration should perform the last rites. If they too cannot do so, HSCW is ready to cremate her. We have written to authorities concerned and made this clear,” said HSCW chairperson Pratibha Suman.
SP Randhawa, however, said, “We will wait for 48 hours for anyone to claim and cremate the body. If that does not happen, the district administration will do the needful.”