Parvati Devi, 23, leaves a three-year-old daughter and her husband, Rohin Oraon. His relatives ostracised the family, jealous of their prosperity and happiness. Dalit activist slams “the mindset of sectarian fascism” that is against the “spirit of freedom, human dignity and hope”.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – A young woman was killed in Jharkhand by her husband's relatives because she was Dalit and both had converted to Christianity. Parvati Devi was 23 years old. Her brother-in-law killed her with an axe in front of her three-year-old daughter, Roshini.
Her husband Rohin Oraon (picture 2), 25, wants justice. He believes the murder was planned to punish his family for breaking tribal and caste rules. He is worried about his daughter’s future. She keeps asking him how the uncles killed her and whether they would kill him too.
Sandeep Tigga Oraon, a member of ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) India, an organisation that helps Christians, told AsiaNews that today a court hearing was held and “two people were arrested.”
According to Rev Patsy David, a local Church leader and human rights advocate, "With the new government (in New Delhi), hate crimes and discrimination of minorities are on the rise in Jharkhand. The situation is alarming. There is fear among minorities.”
The murder occurred on 27 August in Lukujhariya, a village some 30 kilometres from Ranchi, the State capital. Only five Christian families live in his village and the first convert was his Uncle Phulchand.
Rohin Oraon said his family has always practised the Sarna religion, worshiping the gods of nature. His wife, on the other hand, belonged to the Lohara, a low caste.
The couple got married in 2014 against the wishes of his relatives, who began to ostracise them and treat them as outcasts. The latter tried to get them banned from the village, but eventually the council of elders ruled that the family could stay, but forbade them from attending public ceremonies, council meetings and collecting water from the common well.
The couple converted to Christianity in 2017, causing even more criticism. The now widowed man said that Christians "were the only ones to welcome us and not reject us."
What is more, "My relatives were shocked at my prosperity. They hated to see me flourish in my job,” he said. “An outcast, without family support, expelled from the village family with no one to help and support me, how could I be so happy and contented?” he said.
The young man works as a cook at the Ranchi Railway Station. Thanks to his hard work, he bought a motorcycle and a small plot of land where he built a house. He is certain his relatives "were jealous".
For this reason, he believes they premeditated the attack, using a futile pretext "to kill all three of us". On the evening of 27 August, with the excuse that his home lights bothered neighbours, some relatives attacked the family at their home.
His brother Bandhan Ram Oraon and his father came at him, followed by his uncles and cousins. By mistake, his brother hit their father, killing him, as his wife Roshini tried to escape, then he also killed her in front of her crying daughter. "Anyone who says Hallelujah will face similar consequences,” the murderer shouted.
As he watched his wife die, Rohin tried to defend himself from his relatives. Amid the chaos, he eventually was able to escape and hide behind a bush. Helplessly he looked on his brother take his daughter by the feet and hold her upside down, about to hit her.
He prayed “‘Do something Jesus, save her”, then looked away. Rohit said he does not know what distracted his brother, but when he looked up again, he saw Roshini quietly walking toward a neighbour’s house. He left the village, walking 15 kilometres in the dark to his pastor’s house in Bhanpur village, to raise the hue and cry.
Lenin Raghuvanshi, Dalit activist and executive director of the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) in Varanasi, slammed this kind of behaviour, saying that it reflects "the mindset of sectarian fascism that is against the Constitution of India.”
For him, “Marriage is a choice between two people. However, society’s sectarianism is against the spirit of freedom, human dignity and hope, and wants to impose their barbaric understanding on progressive individuals.”
“The government,” he added, “needs to protect them and initiate legal action against those responsible.” It “should honour interfaith marriages that promote the spirit of the Indian Constitution, and [. . .] Art. 21’” which guarantees the “Right to Life and Personal Liberty”. (A.C.F.)