A dalit woman, Teku Lakshmi, was gangraped and murdered three days before a Hyderabad veterinary doctor met with a similar fate in the same state of Telangana.
Three days before the horrific brutality meted to a 26-year-old veterinary doctor, Priyanka Reddy, came to light, a dalit woman was found raped and murdered in the same state of Telangana.
While three accused have been arrested in the case and reportedly confessed to their crime, the victim’s family says the police is refusing to give them her post-mortem report that could reveal disturbing details. The case has also seen little coverage in the media.
The family of the victim, 30-year-old Teku Lakshmi, hails from Gosampally village of Khanapur mandal in Nirmal district. The area is around 250 kilometres from Hyderabad city.
She, her husband Teku Gopi and their two children lived on rent around 100 kilometres away in a village in Lingapur mandal of Komaram Bheem-Asifabad district (earlier Adilabad).
Like Gopi, Lakshmi was a street hawker. She would sell balloons and low-priced fashion accessories for women.
On the morning of 25 November, her husband Teku Gopi found her half-naked, badly injured body in a secluded place. The previous night, Gopi, who is around 38, had given a complaint to the Lingapur Police Station that her wife had gone missing.
As per Gopi’s statement in the first information report (FIR) registered after the body was found (accessed by Swarajya), he and Lakshmi left home together around 6 am on 24 November with their individual supplies.
He dropped Lakshmi in Ellapatar and himself went to Modiguda. When he returned to Ellapatar to pick her up around 2 pm as usual, he did not find her. Her mobile number was also switched off. He searched all around but could not find her. The same night, he gave a complaint to the police.
The next morning, he and a few villagers went around looking for Lakshmi. He eventually found her body around 9 am between Ramnayaktanda and Ellapatar villages within Lingapur mandal. Her saree was pulled up above knees, the upper body was unclothed and she had severe injury marks on her head, throat and hands.
The statement further says that Lakshmi and Gopi belong to Budaga Jangam, a scheduled caste. Gopi suspected three men – Shaboddin, Babu and Makdum – behind the crime as they too were found missing from their homes.
Gopi, who has been living in Gosampally since the crime, told Swarajya that he fears that Lakshmi might have been hit badly on her face and body during the crime. Her eyes were bulging. Her fingers were broken as if hit repeatedly by stones. Her legs were bent in an awkward position, he said.
Gopi also found plastic gloves on the spot. “Maybe the accused strangulated her to death, hoping they wouldn’t be caught if they used plastic gloves,” he said.
“Only the post-mortem report can reveal the cause of her death,” said Gopi, complaining that cops at Lingayat police station turned him away repeatedly when he asked for the report.
Teku Gangaram, sarpanch of Gosampally, said that injury marks on the neck suggested strangulation, but they were waiting for the police to give them the report.
A report by news portal The News Minute says that as per the police, the accused – Shaik Babu (35), Shaik Shaboddin (30) and Shaik Makdum (40) – have confessed to the rape and murder. Police have booked them for murder and rape along with the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. The three have been remanded to judicial custody.
Lingapur sub-inspector told the website that the accused found her when she was walking alone to another village at an isolated place and committed the crime.
Teku Madhu, general secretary of a local Budaga Jangam caste outfit, told Swarajya that the accused belong to Ellapatar village which is Muslim-dominated, and speak Gond mixed with Urdu. “We want no less than public hanging for them,” he said, a demand supported by the victim’s family.
Gopi did not speak much about the incident. Gangaram and other villagers said that a day after the crime, he poured kerosene on himself and tried to set himself on fire, but neighbours managed to stop him.
“He is not stable anymore. He did not even think of the children before thinking of committing suicide,” a woman, a neighbour, said. “Who can bear such a tragedy? What will happen to the children now,” she said.
The children are between eight and 10 years old, they said.
Lakshmi’s brother said that the poor family has suffered a major setback and, through the media, he appealed to the government for financial assistance. “They somehow managed to make a living. It’s going to be very difficult for the family now,” he said.
“Nobody has visited us from the government so far,” a neighbour said.
Villagers said that they heard from the couple’s neighbours in Lingapur that the accused were alcoholics and drug-addicts. One of the accused, they said, had married only last year and his wife was seven months pregnant.
Women in Gosampally said they were too scared to step out of home. Many women, like Lakshmi, work as street hawkers.
“It looked like a planned crime. Lakshmi was beautiful and the accused had their eyes on her. That’s what we heard from their neighbours,” a woman said.
(Prerna Thiruvaipati, a researcher on social inclusion in Hinduism at Indic Academy, contributed to the reporting).