Amrutha Varshini and P Pranay Kumar had exchanged wedding vows on WhatsApp. They wanted to start a small farm with a polyhouse and Pranay, a Dalit, and Amrutha, who belongs to an upper caste, dreamed of bringing up their child without caste prejudices.
That dream is all that’s left for Amrutha now. On September 14, the couple was returning home after a prenatal checkup when an assailant hacked Pranay to death outside the hospital in Miryalaguda town of Telangana’s Nalgonda district. Her father, T Maruthi Rao, who allegedly hired contract killers for Rs 1 crore, and six others have been arrested for the murder.
Amrutha said that Pranay always talked of a society in which caste did not determine who can fall in love or who can marry whom. “We dreamt of bringing up our child without caste attached. I will fight for that kind of a society on behalf of Pranay. Pranay’s gift to me is growing inside me. I am even more determined to raise my child as a crusader against caste prejudices,” she said.
According to the police, Rao was unable to accept that his only daughter had married a Dalit and was also expecting a child. Police sources said that Rao contacted a gang led by Asghar Ali, who was acquitted in the Haren Pandya murder case in Gujarat, to kill his daughter’s husband.
At Pranay’s home in Mutthireddykunta in Miryalaguda Tuesday, Amrutha is still in shock. Her father-in-law, P Balaswami, requests people to give her a break for a few minutes. “I want to give her some breakfast. Her blood pressure is high and the doctor has advised complete bed rest for the safety of her and the baby,” he said.
“We exchanged our vows on WhatsApp while I was in one room and Pranay was in the other, two days before our reception. It was to give ourselves the feeling of being apart while we were typing out our commitment to each other for life. In truth, we couldn’t bear to be away from each other even for a few moments,” she said.
She remembers that he pampered her all the time and took care of her as he would a child. “I am just 21, he was 24… We haven’t experienced anything in this world except unflinching love for each other. A beautiful life has been cut short brutally,” she said.
On Tuesday, activists and members of SC and ST organisations visited Pranay’s house demanding justice for the couple. Amrutha has also started a Facebook page to campaign for justice and fight against caste prejudices.
According to Balaswami, Amrutha wants to live with them. “She is very scared of her parents. She will live here only and we will take care of her and the baby, which is due in four months,” he said. He said he knew how strongly a forward-class family would oppose their lone daughter marrying a Dalit man.
“Anticipating trouble for Pranay I tried to break up their love. I counselled them both but their love was so strong, and they were so committed to each other that I could not do anything,” he said.
“My father and uncle who conspired and planned Pranay’s murder should receive the death penalty as soon as possible,” said Amrutha.
Rao was arrested on September 14 with six others for Pranay’s murder and according to sources, told police that he was riled by the photos and videos that his daughter posted on social media. The “last straw” for Rao, police said, was his daughter’s grand wedding reception on August 17, after which he decided to eliminate Pranay so that his daughter would return to him.
“He said that his love for his daughter turned into an obsession to get her back into the family and he was willing to do anything. When he learnt that she was pregnant, he tried to convince her, through relatives, to get an abortion saying she is too young and should concentrate on her career. When that failed, he decided to eliminate Pranay, which he thought may force her to return home,” said Nalgonda SP A V Ranganath.
Rao, an influential real estate developer, contacted Abdul Kareem, Miryalaguda Town Congress President saying that he wanted to hire a contract killer. According to police, Kareem put him in touch with Asghar Ali, who has a criminal record in Nalgonda. Ali was also arrested in connection with the murder of Gujarat minister Haren Pandya, who was shot dead on March 26, 2003, outside Law Garden in Ahmedabad while he was sitting in his car after his morning walk.
After his arrest, a special court, in 2007, sentenced him and 11 others to life in prison. On August 29, 2011, Ali was acquitted by the Gujarat High Court.
Police sources said that after he was approached by Rao, Ali contacted a childhood friend Mohammed Bari, also a notorious criminal. Bari then contacted Subhash Sharma of Samastipur in Bihar — they had met at Rajahmundry Central Jail a few years ago.
Rao allegedly paid an advance of Rs 16 lakh to Bari in the first week of August and on August 14, Sharma made his first attempt outside a beauty parlour where Amrutha was to come with Pranay.
But as Pranay’s friend was also with the couple, Subhash, police said, could not identify Pranay and aborted the plan.
On September 14, Rao informed Bari that Pranay and his daughter would be visiting a doctor. Bari informed Subhash who waited for the couple to exit the hospital and hacked Pranay to death at 1.15 PM. Subhash then fled to Bengaluru, where he took a train to Patna. He was arrested by Bihar Police Tuesday and is being brought to Hyderabad on transit remand.
Samastipur SP Deepak Ranjan said: “The accused has no criminal case here. We only assisted Telangana police in arresting him.”