Prabhu Lochil was a young man, whose roots belonged to the Malyali community from the state of Kerala, India. He lived with his family in Vasai, a western suburb of Mumbai which is home to many communities. In October 2003, he married his neighbor – Sushma Tiwari, a girl who came from a Brahmin family originally from Uttar Pradesh.
Despite falling in love and choosing to get married, Prabhu and Sushma were not allowed a happy union. Sushma’s family were vehemently against her marrying into a “lower caste” family and were determined to make her leave Prabhu.
The couple felt threatened and complained to police that they feared an attack from the Tiwari family. When Sushma became pregnant, this did not resolve any tension and the police did nothing for their safety.
In the early hours of May 17, 2004, seven months into the marriage, Sushma’s brother Dilip, and his friends Sunil Yadav and Manoj Paswan went to Prabhu’s house with the intention of murdering Prabhu and everyone on sight.
Sushma was staying with Prabhu’s family in another city but Prabhu and his 70 year old father Krishnan, their 14-year-old cousin Dirjid Balan and family friend, 16 year old Abhay Raj were all present and killed. The killers assumed they also stabbed Prabhu’s mother Indira and sister Deepa to death, but they were later taken to hospital unconscious from their injuries.
Despite police suspicion of the entire Tiwari family being involved in plotting these murders, only Dilip and his two friends were charged for going through with the attack.
All India Democratic Women’s Association leaders met the chief minister of the city’s police, Sushil Kumar Shinde, to enforce action against the murderers as the police were slack in even making arrests.
After years of legal battles, a fast-track sessions court imposed the death penalty on Dilip and his two friends which is the highest punishment possible. In 2009 India’s Supreme Court reduced their sentence from capital punishment to 25-year imprisonment citing that Dilip Tiwari was a slave to cast pressures which excused him from the highest form of punishment.
In February 2011, Sushma filed a review petition against reducing her brother’s sentence for the brutal ‘honour killing’ he carried out with his friends on her marital family. She stated that under certain laws such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; caste itself “can never be made a ground for lessening a sentence. In fact, these feelings of caste hatred are themselves criminal…”
Her petition states: “In fact, mass killings based on the concept of ‘honour’ must be viewed by this Honourable Court as murders which must be given the highest deterrent sentence.”
Sushma told The Hindu that by reducing the sentence, the highest court of the land has sent out a wrong message to all those who wished to marry out of caste.