AN INTERVENTION CASE STUDY OF SANTHIGRAM
SUICIDE OF A POOR WOMEN TURNS A MURDER
The news item reported by the renowned Malayalam Daily, Malayala Manorama, prompted us to investigate the case of a poor woman who was abetted to commit suicide by her husband. The news item and case document are given below.
Malayala Manorama News (12 September 2010, Sunday)
HOUSEWIFE DIES OF BURNS
Vizhinjam: Radha (32), wife of Anilkumar, Panachamood, Karichal, Kanjiramkulam Panchayat, died of third degree burns in Medical College Hospital, Thiruvanananthapuram. Kerosene spilled over her while she was cooking, setting fire to her dress and causing severe burns, it was reported. She is survived by husband, son Akshaya (8) and daughter Akshitha (4).
FINDINGS OF INVESTIGATIONS BY VANITHA VEDI
G.S.Santhamma, Secretary, Santhigram Vanitha Vedi and Member, District Panchayat Jagratha Samithy and L. Pankajakshan, Director, Santhigram, conducted an investigation into the circumstances leading to the untimely death of Radha (32), wife of Anilkumar, Vadakkekara, Karichal, in Kanjiramkulam Panchayat on 10.09.2010.
I. Version by Members of Bhoomika SHG
A special group meeting of the Bhoomika SHG was held at 11.30 on 12.09.10 at the house of V. Beena, Secretary of the group. Responses of the members can be summarized as below:
- V.Anilkumar, addicted to liquor and drugs, used to regularly ill-treat his wife, Radha, physically, mentally and financially. Radha used to complain to the members of the group about this.
- Suffering from suspicion mania, it was the habit of Anilkumar to restrict the freedom of movement of his wife. He never allowed Radha to go out to the temple, shop or market place.
- Returning home always in a drunken state, Anilkumar more than once made attempts to murder Radha.
- When once or twice Radha went out to work under the National Rural Employment Scheme, her husband would beat her all the way back home. This compelled her to stop going for work.
- When angry, he used to shout at her: why dont you end your life? Radha has complained to the group members that Anil used to threaten to kill her.
- Theirs was a love marriage and Radha had genuine love and concern for him. In view of protecting the future of the two children, she preferred to silently suffer, rather than complain, much less retaliate.
- The members of the group pleaded with the investigating team to initiate urgent legal action against the culprit. There are many cases of atrocities against women in the area and bringing the culprit to book would have a salutary impact on offending men, they pointed out.
- They also demanded that the local Panchayat and the Panchayat Jagrataha Samithy (Vigilance Committee for womens security) assume charge of the custody and protection of the two stranded children.
- There are many cases of women and children suffering atrocities at the hands of drunken men in the area. Neither the women nor the Kudumbasree SHGs are aware of the existence of Jagratha Samithy or about women-friendly legislations. Neither the Panchayat authorities nor the Jagrataha Samithies have taken note of this and acted. People, particularly women, are alarmed and agitated over this.
II. Version of Nagarajan, Radhas Brother
M. Nagarajan alias Kannan, Radhas brother had this to say:
- Radha was subjected to continuous physical and mental ill-treatment by Anilkumar, her husband.
- Radha sometimes talked about possible separation from husband in a bid to end her sufferings.
- Radha, member of a traditional weaver family, was not allowed to work on the looms in the house.
- One day after beating Radha, Anilkumar dragged her to a spot under a coconut tree and she was left there.
- Radha was not allowed even to sleep in the house. She spent many a night in the houses of Santhini, Suja and Usha, her kind neighbors.
III. What Akshay (8 years) their Son told us
- Father (Anil), in a state of drunkenness used to ill-treat mother (Radha).
- One day when mother was lying down to rest, father double-folded her legs up to her head, causing suffocation. When mother cried out, my sister bit fathers hand. To give vent to his rage, he beat me.
- Mother was beaten up by father also on the eve of her death.
- Often father used to send us children and mother out of the house. We used to sleep in the houses of our neighbors, Santini, Suja and Usha.
IV. What happened in the morning of the fateful day
On the morning of 10 September 2010, K. Vijayan, Anils father and a man called Henri came home. They were planning to go to the house of certain Vasanti, where illicit liquor brewing was going on. Radha objected to this and pleaded to Anil not to go out for drinking with the other men. Brushing aside her protests Anil went out and returned to the house fully drunk. There ensued a quarrel between husband and wife. Anil burst out: you had better end your life. Hearing this Radha took the can of kerosene and a box of matches, went out, entered the toilet/bathroom and closed it with the heavy portable door. After some time Anil asked son Sachu (Akshay) to call mother. Sachu went over to the toilet, but could not remove the heavy door. Soon Anil reached the spot and removed the door to see Radaha sitting on the floor and trying to light a match stick. Her hair was drenched in kerosene. Anil grabbed the box of matches in her lap and lit two sticks one after another and threw away. He took the third stick and lit that too, saying it was her last stick, but the flame was blown out by the wind. Anil threw the match box on to Radhas lap and uttering his choice curse better that you kill yourself went back into the house.
It was too much for Radha, who had been suffering ill-treatment and abuses for the past 8 years. She saw no option before her. She poured some more kerosene on her body and lit the fateful match stick and threw it on herself.
Sachu was a silent and helpless onlooker. As soon as the flames leapt up, he uttered ayyo and ran back and fell down. Hearing the noise Anil came out and poured water on the burning body. He also tried to put out the flames by hand. He sent out his son to call the neighbors.
The first to arrive was Usha, the nearest neighbor. The first instinctive words of Radha to Usha were please put some clothes over my body. Obviously her first thought was to cover her modesty. Usha, pained and scared to see the body of her friend half burnt cried out: you scoundrel, you have killed the poor woman and ran out. Later, Radha was taken to the hospital.
V. Words of Radha dying in the Hospital
Radha, who always loved Anil and never wanted to wreak vengeance on him said to her brother Kannan: It was an accident. I was trying to light fire. Kerosene spilled over to my dress and caught fire.
VI. Findings and Recommendations
- From all the available sources we know that Radha was continuously ill-treated by Anil her husband, in every way- physically, mentally and financially.
- It has also become evident that Radha was not allowed to move out of the house or take up some work,
- After meting out all kinds of tortures, Anil, instead of dissuading the poor woman from her suicide attempt, was pushing her into it by his fateful and cruel words better you kill yourself.
- Anilkumar, the culprit, should be tried under sections of domestic atrocities against women, inciting for suicide, creating conditions leading to suicide, and should be awarded maximum punishment.
- The future of the two children is in jeopardy. Entrusting them with Anil or his parents is not wise. There is every chance that hey might murder the young children. Radhas parents are too poor. They are totally asset less and dont have even a proper shelter. Hence, alternative arrangements should be made to ensure their safe upbringing.
- Action should be initiated to transfer the assets of Anil (5 cents and a house) in the name of the children.
- There are several women in the locality who are in conditions similar to Rdahas. The Panchayat and the Jagratha Samithy should take urgent action to ensure that similar tragedies do not occur again.
- Though atrocities against women are widespread, out of fear women do not come out to give evidence. Hence alternative methods of investigation are required to get at facts and establish evidence.
- By no means should women be compelled to report to the police station in connection with this case.
This report was handed over to Police who reinvested the case and based on the new findings initiated legal proceedings against the alleged culprit. The husband of the women was arrested and jailed.
(M) 09287548234, 0471-2269780, 6452511