Tension prevailed in Mirayalaguda as Amrutha, the wife of 24-year-old Pranay Perumalla, who was hacked to death in Telangana in 2018 in a brutal caste killing, attempted to see the body of her father, Maruthi Rao, and attend his last rites on Monday, 9 March.
Maruthi Rao, the main accused in Pranay's murder, was found dead under suspicious circumstances in a room at Arya Vysya Bhavan in Hyderabad's Khairatabad area on Sunday after checking into the room on Saturday night.
Amrutha visited the Hindu funerary site in Gandhi Nagar in the town on Monday where the last rites of Rao were being conducted, after a procession across town.
She was brought amid high police security as officials feared that she may be attacked. Even as she got down from the car, several people who had gathered, which included sympathisers of Rao, began creating a ruckus.
Blaming her for 'killing' her father, they raised slogans of 'Maruthi Rao amar rahe' (long live Maruthi Rao).
Many also blocked her way as she tried to move closer to the body. She saw the body from afar, before she was taken back to the police car in which she arrived, and left. Following this, Rao's younger brother, Sravan, completed the rituals for the last rites.
There was speculation since morning that Amrutha may try to visit either her father's house, or the Hindu funerary site, to get one last glimpse of him.
"She wanted to go to see her father for one last time. That is true. But then she saw statements given by her relatives including her uncle in the media, and she became disheartened," Pranay's father, Balaswamy, told TNM, ahead of her visit on Monday, adding, "I don't know what she is thinking. It is her wish to go or not. It would be good if she is allowed to visit and gets some closure."
Speaking to reporters in Hyderabad on Sunday, Rao’s brother, Sravan, who is also one of the accused in the case, blamed Amrutha for the death and the case against him.
After news of the death, Amrutha told reporters in Miryalaguda that Maruthi Rao may have taken the extreme step out of 'regret' due to what he had done.
Maruthi Rao is accused of paying Rs 1 crore to a contract killer after Amrutha, who belonged to the dominant Vysya caste, married Pranay, a Dalit from the Mala community, in an inter-caste marriage.
Asked to respond on Amrutha's comment, Sravan seemingly justified Rao's actions and said, "The daughter had damaged everything and he may have killed himself due to that, but why should he regret anything? What wrong has he done?"
He also said that he would not allow Amrutha to witness the last rites of her father.
In a press meet at Pranay's home after being blocked from seeing her father's last rites, Amrutha told reporters, "I went there because he was still my father. I understand my mother's pain in losing a husband. But I have a family here now. I will not leave them and go. The case is still going on and just like I am representing my husband, she may be representing hers. If she wishes to come and live with me, I am ready to welcome her."
As per a preliminary inquiry, the police suspect that Maruthi Rao may have taken his own life, as he was tense about the trial, which was to begin soon.
Meanwhile, Miryalaguda MLA Nallamothu Bhaskar Rao from the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) was among those who visited Rao's residence to express his condolences. Several political leaders and businessmen, who were close to Rao, visited the family and paid their respects on Monday morning.
In June last year, the police had filed a chargesheet against Rao, and seven others. The delay in filing the chargesheet had led to Maruthi Rao and others securing bail. Rao was recently in the news when the body of an unidentified man was found in a shed belonging to him in Miryalaguda on 29 February.
(The story was first published on The News Minute and has been republished in an arrangement.)