July 14, 2020
By Aftab Ahmed
Although Sindh has seen an increase in suicides in the last few years, the real facts and motives behind these incidents often go undiscovered because of a lack of proper investigation.
One such incident took place in Tando Allahyar in which Vijayanti Meghwar’s murder at the hands of her in-laws was made to look like suicide.
June 25 became the end of the world for Dodo Meghwar’s family when Rajesh, the husband of the 25-year-old Vijayanti, informed his brother-in-law Anish Kumar that his sister had committed suicide by tying a noose around her neck and hanging herself.
But, when Anish arrived at his sister’s house, the body was not found hanging in fact his brother-in-law had taken the corpse to the hospital without even informing the police. A police investigation was launched, however the Women’s Medico-Legal Officer Zille Huma failed to perform a postmortem or conduct any necessary examinations of the body. She then submitted a report saying Vijayanti’s body bore no signs of violence.
SSP Tando Allahyar Rukhsar Khawar, highlighted Anish’s allegations that Vijayanti was not treated well by her husband and in-laws. He said she was tortured several times, as evidenced by a petition filed at the police station in December 2019. Under these claims, Khawar said that Vijayanti’s husband and brother-in-law were promptly arrested, however investigation is still underway.
The preliminary medical report had been written in a hurry because when Vijayanti’s in-laws reported suicide, they took her to the hospital without informing the police. SSP Khawar termed the intervention of a provincial minister in Vijayanti’s case as baseless.
Vijayanti’s mother, Kirmani, stated that she had brought along her two-year-old daughter to visit her on June 22 and seemed happy – neither depressed nor upset. However, ever since Vijayanti got married, her mother-in-law, cousins, brother-in-law and husband often subjected her to both mental and physical torture.
Advocate Ali Palh, following Vijayanti’s case, said that he has submitted a request for a second postmortem, and that the truth that it was a murder not a suicide suicide, would soon come out. He added that police termed suspect deaths in such cases as suicides, and eventually only reinvestigate under pressure. It takes years for justice to be served.
In Sindh, the number of suicides has risen at an alarming rate over the last two years. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and police reports, more than 160 suicides were reported in Sindh in 2019 and more than 1,200 suicide cases in the last five years (from 2014 to 2019). This figure includes 606 members of the Hindu community.
According to the Hyderabad chapter of HRCP, in the first six months of 2020, more than 100 suicides and more than 50 attempted suicides have been reported, with the most affected areas being Mirpur Khas division districts Mithi, Umerkot, Badin, Sanghar and Hyderabad.
Imdad Chandio of HRCP observed that suicides were more prevalent in the Hindu community, including in Tharparkar, and a that large proportion of these fatalities were women. The rate of suicide amongst women is higher than in men because of the pressure of failing to satisfy their families and in-laws regardless despite engaging in hard labour and housekeeping.
According to Professor Dr. Ijaz Wassan, Chairman of the Department of Sociology at the University of Sindh in Jamshoro, whose PhD study revolved around suicides, among the leading causes of suicides are the increasing regularity of domestic violence in Mirpurkhas, especially in the Tharparkar area, stressful, high-interest loans from microfinance banks, general poverty, and hunger.
Pushpa Kumari, a social worker involved in raising awareness of and proposing solutions to problems faced by minority communities, especially women, stated that in addition to poverty, the wadera shahi culture, (feudal system) incomplete police investigations and a poor judicial system have adversely affected women in the Hindu community. Because these problems remain unaddressed, suicides among these groups are on the rise. If the perpetrators of violence against women are punished swiftly and if the government formulates a comprehensive plan to eradicate poverty, then the number of suicides will most certainly see a decline.
To curb the rise in suicides in Sindh over the past several years, social leaders, human rights campaigners, and lawyers have called upon the police to conduct thorough investigations so that the truths behind such cases can be ascertained, and cases such as the murder of Dr. Namrata Kumari will not arise as much.
Hyderabad region police chief AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo admits that there are definitely shortcomings in police investigations. But the Sindh government too should ensure the establishment of forensic labs so that the actual aspects of suspected cases can be brought forward.