Rama Kunwar thought it would be safe to return to her home village.
Eight years ago, the now-30-year-old woman had rejected her family’s choice husband to elope with her lover, a man named Prakash Sevak. Sevak belonged to a different caste, making theirs a rare — and contentious — union.
So much time had passed, however, that Kunwar believed her family might have forgiven her for what is traditionally regarded as a shameful marriage.
According to police reports cited by AFP and the Times of India, the young woman’s homecoming proved fatal. After her arrival in Pachlasa Chhota village in the western state of Rajasthan last Friday, Kunwar’s visit to her in-laws’ house was disrupted by more than 20 of her brothers and cousins, who pulled her outside.
As other villagers looked on, they allegedly beat her, poured kerosene over her body and set her on fire.
“She thought that her parents would now accept her but as soon as her brothers came to know that she was in the village, they rushed to that house and dragged her out,” Brijran Singh, a senior official in the district, told AFP. “She cried for help but no one came to her rescue.”
To conceal the evidence, Singh said, the men rushed to bury her at the village cremation site.
Seven people have been arrested, the Times of India reported, and police are searching for 20 more individuals connected to the killing. The seven in custody appeared in court on Sunday.
According to The Indian Express, Kunwar had a three-year-old daughter.
The apparent crime belongs to a long history of “honour killings” in India, where romantic liaisons across castes and religions often lead to violence towards the women involved.
In another Rajasthan village three years ago, a man allegedly beheaded his daughter after he learned that she had eloped with a man.
The practice of fatal retaliation against women who have supposedly shamed their families is also present elsewhere in South Asia. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, a documentary film about honour killings in Pakistan, was recently awarded the 2016 Academy Award for documentary short subject.
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