New Delhi: At 23, Nirupama Pathak seemed to have seamlessly made the transition from her small home-town in Jharkhand to big city life. Read: Delhi journalist murdered: Honour killing?)
Supported by her parents, she arrived in Delhi to study journalism at one of the capital's premier institutes. There, she fell in love with a classmate, Priyabhanshu Ranjan. A job at one of India's best-known newspapers, the Business Standard, followed. On Facebook, she commented on political and personal issues. She was easy-going, unpretentious and helpful.
The roots that seemed to ground her rose quickly to strangle her. Nirupama was a Brahmin, her boyfriend a Kayastha. Where she came from, that was enough to stop everything.
Last week, Nirupama's family summoned her home, insisting that her mother, Sudha, was not keeping well. On Thursday night, Nirupama was found dead in her bedroom at her Jharkhand home. Her family said she had committed suicide by hanging herself. The post-mortem clearly spelled murder by asphyxiation. "There are no external injury marks on her, which means that she was probably pinned down by a few people and then smothered," said P Mohan, a surgeon in Nirupama's hometown of Koderma.
Her mother, Sudha, was arrested for her murder and sent to 14-day jail on Monday. Nirupama's father, Dharmendra, says though the family wasn't pleased with her relationship with Priyanshu, because he was from a different caste, he would never hurt his daughter. "You have to first look at your own caste, then you should look elsewhere... but we only advised her," he told NDTV, reiterating that his daughter's death was a suicide.
The crime shows yet again how 'honour killings' cannot be considered the curse of rural India where panchayats often order the execution of young couples who dare to cross caste borders. Nirupama's father worked at a bank, her brothers were PhDs, the family had helped Nirupama to move far from home to follow her dreams.
"I have not only lost my girlfriend and would-be wife... her parents have also killed me. When I last spoke with her, she asked me to forget her, she said 'they are not letting her come back', so I asked her who was stopping her, considering only her mother was at home. She told me that her brother's friend was also present, I should have asked her for his name, this was a mistake I made," says Priyabhanshu. (Watch: Nirupama's boyfriend speaks to NDTV)
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked for the case to be handled by a fast-track court.