On 21 December 2016, Seema, a 20-year-old woman, married Pradeep, a 28-year-old man, at a local court in Rohtak, Haryana. Both Seema and Pradeep lived with their families in Rohtak’s Amrit Colony, in opposite houses. They belonged to different castes: Seema was from the Jatav community, a Scheduled Caste which is also known as Chamar, while Pradeep was a Brahmin. Anticipating opposition to their decision, the couple decided to keep their wedding a secret, and continued to live in their respective homes. According to Pradeep’s maternal aunt, on 4 January 2017, he broke the news of the wedding to his parents. They appeared to be amenable to his decision, and informed Seema’s parents the same day. Pradeep's aunt said her family claimed that they had no objection either, adding that they told they would send Seema to Pradeep’s house “apne hisab se”—when they felt the time was appropriate. In the afternoon of 5 January, members of the Haryana police rushed to a crematorium in Rohtak, reportedly following a tip-off they had received from Pradeep. There, they found that Seema, who had allegedly died the previous night, was being cremated by her family members. The police poured water over the funeral pyre and recovered her body. It was already half-burnt.
Later that day, the police arrested Khushi Ram, Seema’s father, and Angrezo Devi, her mother, for allegedly killing their daughter. Rinku, Seema’s brother, was arrested two days later. They were all charged under Section 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, for murder and causing the disappearance of evidence. The police suspected that Seema’s death was an honour killing. They believed that Seema’s parents and brother had murdered her because they were enraged by her decision to marry Pradeep.
Naveen Kumar, the investigating officer in the case, who is also the station house officer at Shivaji Colony police station—which has jurisdiction over offences committed in Amrit Colony—told me over the phone that Seema’s family had been opposed to her decision to marry outside the family’s caste even though Pradeep’s parents had tried to convince them otherwise. “They wanted her to marry within the Dalit caste itself,” Kumar said.