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Kerala: Husband Arrested 42 Days After Dalit Woman Dies Due to Dowry Harassment

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Sangeetha, a 22-year-old Kerala Dalit woman allegedly took her own life following dowry and caste harassment last month. Kerala police are now facing backlash for arresting three people, including the woman’s husband, after 42 days. The criticism pertains to police inaction in speeding up investigation and subsequent arrests.

*Trigger warning: This article contains details about an incident of self-harm.

Sangeetha was found dead in her matrimonial home on June 1. Her father Sajeevan, mother Sheeba, and her siblings Salina and Sajina claimed that Sangeetha was driven to die by suicide due to the constant dowry and caste harassment she faced. The family said that Sangeetha’s husband Sumesh and his family regularly harassed Sangeetha for dowry and used casteist slurs against her.

Sangeetha was a member of the Pulaya caste and belonged to the Dalit community.  She got married to 33-year-old Sumesh, a member of the Ezhava community, which is in the OBC category on September 6, 2020. The harassment of the deceased due to her caste and for dowry started soon after the wedding.

Then, Sangeetha suffered from a miscarriage in the fifth month of her pregnancy, in August 2021. Her sister Salina claimed, “We requested assistance from his family for burying the foetus, but they refused, saying it was fortunate the Pulaya child had not been born into their family”. The deceased woman’s family also alleged that Sumesh physically abused Sangeetha in front of the family several times.

Dalit Woman Dowry Death: Family Accuses Police Of Apathy

The complainants also alleged that Sangeetha was given a separate plate and glass for use in her matrimonial household. She was not allowed to sit in a chair while watching television and had been locked out of the house at night multiple times by her husband and in-laws.

The police arrested three people 42 days after Sangeetha’s death- her husband Sumesh, his mother Ramani, and his sister-in-law Maneesha.

However, Sangeetha’s family had accused police of apathy and said that despite several complaints to the Ernakulam Central police station where the case was registered, no steps were taken for over a month. The police denied the allegations and claimed that the accused Sumesh had moved an anticipatory bail plea that was pending in court, hence the delay in the arrest.


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