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Caste reality for childhood sweethearts: Woman kills herself, husband disappears

The 20-year-old Tummala Swathi was found hanging in her parents’ home at Lingarajupalle village in Telangana. The day before, she allegedly tried to drink a toilet cleaner, but was saved.

india Updated: May 17, 2017 20:38 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Telangana,Caste,Tummala Swathi
Tummala Swathi was found hanging in her parents’ home in Telangana.(Representative image)

Depression apparently drove a young Telangana woman to commit suicide on Tuesday morning after her husband disappeared about two weeks ago.

The 20-year-old Tummala Swathi was found hanging from a ceiling fan in her parents’ home at Lingarajupalle village in Yadadri Bhongir district. The day before, she allegedly tried to drink a toilet cleaner, but was saved.

Her death and 23-year-old husband Amboji Naresh’s disappearance have escalated a feud between the two families, who were upset with their marriage as they belong to separate castes.

Naresh’s father, Venkataiah, alleged that his daughter-in-law didn’t kill herself but was murdered because she hurt her family’s “honour” by marrying someone from a lower caste. Also, he feared for his missing son’s safety.

Many people, especially women, are murdered each year in India by family members over perceived damage to honour that can involve eloping or any other infraction against conservative social values.

The woman’s father, Srinivasa Reddy, dismissed the allegation and accused his son-in-law’s parents of harassing his daughter by demanding a dowry in cash and gold. Police registered a case of dowry death against the groom’s family after he lodged a complaint.

Swathi and Naresh were childhood friends from neighbouring villages. Naresh grew up at his grandfather’s home after his parents left for Mumbai in 2001.

The childhood sweethearts went to the same school and college. But they couldn’t convince their families to accept the match.

Unable to find a solution, they eloped on March 16 and married at a Mumbai civil court nine days later.

In the meantime, Reddy charged Naresh with kidnapping his daughter and lodged a case with Bhongir police. But he had to withdraw the complaint after police, on the marriage court’s direction, arranged a reunion and counselling session with the couple and their parents.

The families couldn’t object as Swathi and Naresh were adults.

The couple returned to Bhongir with their families on March 26, but stayed separately until Naresh went back to Mumbai. A week on, Swathi too left for Mumbai and joined her husband.

Trouble began in April when Reddy asked his daughter to come back, saying he has no objection to her marriage with Naresh. He apparently promised a traditional wedding for her.

Accordingly the couple reached Bhongir town on May 2. Swathi went to her village and Naresh apparently left for his. That night Naresh disappeared. He never reached his grandfather’s home.

He couldn’t be contacted on his phone, which was switched off. When all attempts failed, his anxious family called police.

Police inspector M Shankar said Naresh was in Bhongir till 9pm and there’s no trace of him after that. Investigators met Reddy the following day but he too couldn’t throw any light on the man’s whereabouts.

Naresh’s father came to Bhongir on May 6 and lodged a complaint about his son disappearance. As the investigation made little progress, Venkataiah filed a habeas corpus petition at the Hyderabad high court on May 15.

The court asked Reddy and Swathi to appear before it on Wednesday. But the woman died, leaving many questions unanswered.

First Published: May 17, 2017 19:48 IST