Indian teen whose body was found hanging off bridge was killed by her family for wearing jeans, says report

Her family members had allegedly asked her to quit school and wear more traditional clothes

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 27 July 2021 13:57
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<p>File: Political activists hold placards and a cut-out of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi during a protest condemning the alleged gang-rape and murder of a teenaged woman at Hathras in Uttar Pradesh state</p>

File: Political activists hold placards and a cut-out of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi during a protest condemning the alleged gang-rape and murder of a teenaged woman at Hathras in Uttar Pradesh state

A 17-year-old girl from India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state was killed last week and her body dumped on a river bridge, allegedly by members of her extended family who were enraged at her choice of clothes.

The grandfather and uncles of the teenager, identified as Neha Paswan, allegedly beat her severely with sticks and rods after she went against their diktat and continued to wear jeans — clothing her family considered inappropriate.

Reports in Indian media outlets said the family repeatedly objected to her “western clothes,” exposing the deep roots of patriarchy in the country’s social fabric.

Shakuntala Devi, the teen’s mother, was quoted by the BBC as saying that the teen was adamant about wearing jeans despite strong objections from her grandparents.

“She had kept a day-long religious fast. In the evening, she put on a pair of jeans and a top and performed her rituals. When her grandparents objected to her attire, Neha retorted that jeans were made to be worn and that she would wear it,” Ms Devi said.

This led to an argument that escalated to severe violence against the teen, according to the BBC. The girl’s grandparents and other relatives reportedly beat her unconscious.

Police said the grandfather and two of her uncles refused to let Ms Devi accompany them to the local district hospital. They instead allegedly took the help of a local auto-rickshaw driver to dispose of the body.

“They wouldn’t let me accompany them so I alerted my relatives who went to the district hospital looking for her but couldn’t find her,” Ms Devi was quoted as saying by the BBC.

The next morning, Ms Devi and her other relatives received news that a girl’s body was dangling from a bridge over the Gandak river that flows through the region, and upon inspection it was found to be of her daughter’s.

Police officials said the men had tried to throw the body over the bridge, but it got stuck instead.

Police registered a case of murder and destruction of evidence against 10 people, including the girl’s aunts and cousins, according to local reports.

So far, authorities have arrested four people including the grandfather, two uncles and the auto-rickshaw driver. A search is on for the others.

The girl received serious head injuries when she was beaten up, leading to her death, the Indian Express quoted senior police official Yash Tripathi as saying.

The postmortem report also suggested she had received a “severe injury and fracture in the head (sic)”.

Her extended family — including her uncles and grandfather — had been persistent in objecting to the girl’s routine activities and life choices.

They had told her to quit school and admonished her for not wearing traditional Indian clothing.

The teen’s father Amarnath Paswan, who had been living in Ludhiana city in Punjab state where he worked as a construction site labourer — told the media that he laboured to send her to school.

This is not the first time a gruesome crime of this nature was committed.

A 20-year-old girl was beaten by her father for running away from her abusive in-laws in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state last month. In another shocking incident, two girls were beaten up by their family members for talking on mobile phones in the state’s Dhar district.

Several social media users paid tributes to the deceased. One tweeted: “Sorry Neha we let you down - this is a blot on us as society!”

In the last four years, crimes against women have increased in Uttar Pradesh by over 66 per cent, according to the latest available data.

Women in India mostly bear the brunt of these so-called “honour killings,” carried out by family members based on the belief that their actions have brought dishonour on their community.

A 2018 report says that more than 300 cases of honour killings were reported across the country in the last three years.

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