Women in Madhesh are being murdered over dowryJustice remains elusive, complain victim’s relatives.
Puja Loniya, a 23-year-old woman from Jaipur of Nepalgunj sub-metropolitan city, was found dead at her husband’s house on December 13.
Puja, a mother of a son and a daughter, was married to Rajkumar Loniya of Janaki Rural Municipality-6 five years ago. Puja’s parents received the news of her death through a neighbour and have accused Rajkumar’s family of torturing and killing their daughter over dowry. They claim that their daughter committed suicide because of dowry-related physical and mental abuse. They have filed a complaint against her husband and father-in-law at the local police station in Kohalpur. Puja’s post-mortem report states that she died by consuming poison, police said.
Puja went back to her husband’s house from her parents’ house just 20 days before the incident and would regularly inform her parents about the regular torture she was subjected to from Rajkumar’s family for dowry. She went back to her husband's house on the condition that she wouldn’t be tortured any more, and Rajkumar also agreed not to abuse her. “Her husband is under police custody now," said Motiram Chauhan, uncle of Puja.
A few months ago, Godi Varma of Janaki Rural Municipality in Banke was also found dead. Police have said she committed suicide by hanging. The victim's parents, however, accused her husband's family of murdering her and filed a complaint of murder against the family. Her parents accused the family of torturing her reguraly for dowry.
Similarly, Afsarul Khan of Rapti Sonari Rural Municipality-7 was found dead hanging in her room on November 2. Khan was the mother of a nine-month-old boy. Her medical report also said that she committed suicide. However, the victim’s parents said that it was a murder. On November 4, the police filed a case saying Khan was abetted for suicide. After the complaint, Khan’s husband and brother-in-law have been remanded into judicial custody.
"The police did not file our complaint the first time but only after the fourth time when we put pressure on them and demanded justice,” said Wahab Khan, the father of the deceased. “My daughter and Meraj Shesh got married two years ago, and after some time, she was repeatedly tortured mentally and physically for dowry. My daughter did not commit suicide; she was murdered by Meraj’s family, and they made it look like it was suicide. No matter what happens, I will fight the legal battle to get justice for my daughter."
"Look at the nine-month-old,” he added. “How are we going to tell him what happened to her mother when he grows up?"
The police have been investigating Khan’s case by putting Meraj Shesh, her husband, and her brother-in-law Alamin Shesh in custody. However, the relatives and parents of Khan have demanded that all the family members should be investigated by putting them in custody. Relatives of the victims are still struggling to get justice from the police administration. They also complain that the government does not ensure justice to victims.
Basanta Gautam, a human rights activist in Banke, said that there are several pending cases of suicide and murder set up like a suicide. This problem occurs when the police do not do their investigation properly, Gautam said. When the police themselves become the judge and pass judgement on homicide cases, confusion occurs, resulting in victims like Khan not getting justice immediately, he added. Domestic violence complaints are increasing by the year as criminals go unpunished.
According to the data of the District Police Office, Banke, there were 518 complaints of domestic violence in fiscal year 2019-20; 738 in 2020-21; and 844 in 202-22. It has been found that all the complaints were about cases of violence against women. Apart from the registered cases, most of the complaints get settled in the presence of the police. In the last three years, 1,278 cases were settled, while 222 complaints reached the court.
"Even though women are being killed in the name of dowry and other things, the police do not file their complaint; they only do so after putting pressure on them,” said Ruby Khan, another human rights activist in Banke. “When the accused gets away unpunished, other perpetrators also feel emboldened. In cases related to murder, it is filed as abetment of suicide, which has made the victims more vulnerable."