Report: Family Beats Indian Girl to Death for ‘Wearing Jeans’

BOMBAY, INDIA: Indian school children walk past a poster advertising jeans in the streets of Bombay, 05 October 2004. Fashions, particularly for the young, are changing in the commercial capital, influenced by overseas trends and billboard advertising, yet the vast majority of women still wear the traditional saree or Salwar …
ROB ELLIOTT/AFP via Getty

Police in northern India have arrested at least four members of the same family for allegedly beating their relative, a 17-year-old girl, to death last week for wearing jeans, the Quint, an Indian news site, reported on Thursday.

Several members of Neha Paswan’s family, including her grandfather and uncles, severely beat the teenager to death with wooden sticks on July 19, according to Neha’s mother. The altercation erupted following an argument over Neha’s clothing at her family home in the village of Savreji Kharg, located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Savreji Kharg is located in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria district, “one of the least developed regions in the state,” according to the BBC.

Neha’s mother, Shakuntala Devi Paswan, told BBC Hindi on July 26 her daughter “had kept a day-long religious fast” on the same day as her deadly beating. “In the evening, she put on a pair of jeans and a top and performed her rituals. When her grandparents objected to her attire, Neha retorted that jeans were made to be worn and that she would wear it.”

The argument soon gave way to physical violence against Neha, later found by her mother lying “unconscious” in their home, according to Shakuntala Devi’s account. The mother said her in-laws then “called an autorickshaw” and said they were taking Neha to a local hospital.

“They wouldn’t let me accompany them so I alerted my relatives who went to the district hospital looking for her but couldn’t find her,” Neha’s mother said.

Shakuntala Devi told the BBC she and her relatives heard the next morning “that the body of a girl was hanging from the bridge over the Gandak river that flows through the region.”

“When they went to investigate, they discovered it was Neha’s,” according to the BBC report.

Members of Neha’s family are “accused of trying to dispose of [her] body by throwing it from over the Patanwa bridge on the Deoria-Kasya [road] but it got stuck in its railing and was spotted by police later,” the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported on July 23. The Deoria-Kasya road runs over the Gandak river via the Patanwa bridge.

A younger brother of Neha, identified as Vivek, told Indian media last week “their uncles and grandfather were angry with her [Naha] over [the wearing] of clothes and thrashed her.”

“While thrashing her, they were continuously abusing her for her dressing sense,” Vivek said, adding that Naha’s relatives “used to always object to her wearing jeans and on that day too had asked her several times to stop wearing it.”

“According to the complaint given by her mother, the girl received serious head injuries when she was beaten up, leading to her death,” a senior police official working on the case named Yash Tripathi told PTI on July 23.

“The post-mortem examination has also confirmed severe injury and fracture in the head,” he added.

Shakuntala Devi registered official police complaints against ten people for alleged involvement in her daughter’s death. The case has been registered under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including “201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), [and] 302 (punishment for murder),” another police officer working on the case, Ram Mohan Singh, told PTI on July 23.

Four people, including Naha’s paternal grandparents, an uncle, and the auto-rickshaw driver they allegedly hired, have been arrested so far in connection with the case and are being interrogated, Tripathi told BBC Hindi on July 26. He said police were still “looking for the remaining accused.”

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