“A tale of forbidden love that ended in a man’s violent death has sparked rioting in Calcutta and led to the removal of the city’s police chief. The fate of Rizwanur Rahman has exposed the religious and class divisions in modern India. Mr Rahman, 30, was a computer graphics teacher from a Muslim family of modest means. His widow, Priyanka Todi, 23, is the daughter of a wealthy Hindu clothing manufacturer. Investigators are now trying to determine whether Mr Rahman, 30, who was discovered in September lying dead on a city railway track with a head wound, committed suicide or was murdered.”
This was no ordinary case, as the married couple were in the Indian news for months once their relationship became public. Mr. Rahman was killed in September 2007, and his public profile ensured that he did not just become another statistic. Wikipedia has an extensive entry on him, while there are multiple websites and blogs, which were set up to demand justice. It certainly looks like murder:
“They secretly married in August and she left her family’s lavish suburban villa for his cramped apartment in a poor Muslim area of Calcutta. In response, her father, Ashok Todi, a prominent businessman, went to Mr Rahman’s house with relatives. There, he dropped to his knees and clutched his daughter’s feet, begging her to save him from the “humiliation”, saying: “I cannot take a Muslim son-in-law”.
The young couple wrote to the city’s police force, seeking protection. “Some anti-socials are coming to our place and threatening us with dire consequences if we continue to stay together,” their letter said. Senior officers, however, sided with Mr Todi, and even warned Mr Rahman that he would be charged with kidnap unless he relinquished his wife.
On September 8, Miss Todi visited her father in the belief that he was ill. Instead, her mobile phone was confiscated and she was taken hundreds of miles away to southern India. She managed to call her husband and begged him to wait “months or years” for her. “Yes I will wait for you for ever,” he replied. She never saw him again.”
You are probably wondering where the hope is in this dark tale. It lies in the reaction of not just bloggers, but in Bengali protestors and others who erupted with anger at the various revelations which have emerged:
“Students held candle-lit vigils for three weeks outside his former college, the prestigious St Xavier’s where he studied Byron and Thackeray. When rumours circulated in the city that Mr Rahman’s body had been removed from the morgue as part of an attempt to cover up his death, it sparked rioting in which cars and buses were stoned, a police car was set alight and two senior officers were injured.
Armed police eventually restored calm. In the aftermath, the Calcutta police commissioner, Prasun Mukherjee, sided with conservatives, suggesting that it was his force’s job to help Mr Todi lure his daughter back. “After taking care of the daughter for 23 years, if the family finds one morning that she has left them to start a new life with an unknown youth, parents cannot accept it,” Mr Mukherjee said.
His comments caused further public outcry and the city’s authorities have now removed the police commissioner and four other senior officers from their posts. No arrests have been made following Mr Rahman’s death but the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is now understood to be inclining towards a verdict of “suicide with abetment”, suggesting that they believe he may have been pressed to kill himself.”
While violence and random destruction is unpleasant, at least it shows that Indians are increasingly unwilling to tolerate ‘honour’ killings and officialdom turning a blind eye to it.
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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,India