Karnika Singh, married a dentist on January 25 after their parents felt they were a suitable match. On June 2, she was found hanging from a ceiling fan at her marital home having complained of harassment by her husband and in-laws earlier. Her father told the Times of India that his daughter, who worked as a blog writer, felt that her in-laws were humiliating her and she didn’t want to continue with the marriage.
Karnika Singh’s husband and father-in-law, who is senior doctor in public service, were subsequently arrested on charges of driving her to suicide and harassing her seeking dowry.
Karnika’s sister, Devika Mahiyaria, has written an open letter after her sister’s suicide in which she writes about how women shouldn’t be afraid to walk out of marriage rather than stay in an tumultous one. We are reproducing it here:
I can’t get the sight of you hanging from the ceiling fan of your apartment, out of my mind. I wish I could have read through you every time you said that you were alright and figured out that you were actually completely broken inside.
I wish I could have understood the extent of your misery and had firmly talked you out of the marriage sooner. Why couldn’t I foresee that you might choose to end your life so abruptly? Why didn’t you think about me? Who will now give me advice on every single step of my life? Why did you leave behind so many unanswered questions?
If there’s one thing we stigmatise more than the idea of an unmarried woman, it’s the idea of a broken marriage. You feared facing such stigma which runs deep in most parts of our country, and so chose to end your misery in the quickest way you knew. It’s too late to tell you that your fears were unfounded, that we would give anything to have you back in our lives.
I don’t know how many women suffer in silence at the hands of those who’re supposed protectors. But I do hope that they take courage in the fact that no matter how bleak things seem at the moment, a better and freer life awaits them should they choose to break their silence, and have the courage to prosecute the people who coerce them into fulfilling their perverse sexual demands.
You always fought for the voiceless – not a day passed that you didn’t stop by to feed a stray or rehabilitate any living creature she knew to be in pain. Even moments before you took your life, you were seen feeding animals in your locality – such was the depth of your compassion.
But you remained unheard because our society always places the burden of repairing a doomed marriage on a woman. Women are constantly being silenced for being overly reactive, volatile alarmists who act out of emotion instead of seeing things from the perspective of our husbands.
Non-consensual sex is rape, and every woman has a right to fight it. Why didn’t you protest when your rights were so openly violated all the time? To the extent that you were made to undergo that extremely painful procedure under the guise of regular sonography. What were they trying to establish?
I can’t recall the last time you wilfully hurt another person, even with a word or a gesture. But what I will continue to recall for ages to come, what I fear would be my lasting memory of you, is the time Mummy and I released your limp body, loosening the noose around your neck in the belief that you were still alive. You’re survived by me, Kuber and our parents, to whom you’ve given the greatest memories in your unfairly brief life. I fear that the one that’ll haunt me forever is the one where I last saw you.
I have so much left to say to you. I’ll never be able to laugh with you, confide in you or even watch that movie we planned to watch the next day. I’ll never again be able to embrace the one friend who knew me better than anyone else, and reclaim the part of my soul that left with you.
I hope that anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation reaches out to their family and friends and take the fight to the courts. Whatever assumptions you have about your life post-marriage, know that no compromise is worth giving up your dreams and the free will that is your birthright. We have all failed you in life Ginja, but I hope that your action spurs people into taking a firm stand against marital rape, which is yet to be criminalised in India. Although it’s too late to convince you, I hope that I can convince others like you that we can slowly and agonisingly work towards a future where no woman needs to make a compromise under the illusion of safety and respectability.