Twenty-year-old Amrutha married Pranay in January this year against her parents’s wishes. She was, however, in constant touch with her mother since she got pregnant.
Amrutha would tell her mother about how she was doing, and her mother would advise her to rest well and eat meals on time. The mother, happy to get frequent updates, would pass on the same information to Amrutha's father, Maruthi Rao.
But unbeknownst to them, Maruthi Rao had been plotting Pranay's murder for months and used the information from the phone calls to trace Pranay's whereabouts.
The last fateful call was on 13 September, a day before Pranay's murder and the eve of Vinayaka Chaturthi, when Amrutha informed her mother that she and Pranay were going to Jyothi hospital for a regular check-up. Amrutha's mother passed on the same information to Maruthi Rao.
It was in this manner that the date and location of the murder was set, and months of planning culminated in a cold-blooded killing in broad daylight.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Nalgonda Superintendent of Police AV Ranganath detailed the conspiracy behind the crime. Multiple meetings between the five main accused at various places in the state, fake sim cards, an advance of Rs 16 lakh and a deal for Rs 1 crore, was all that led to the death of Pranay.
Those arrested are Maruthi Rao, Sravan, Mohammed Bari, Congress leader Abdul Karim, Shiva and Subhash Sharma, the alleged killer who was picked up from Bihar. Nalgonda SP told NTV that they identified Sharma based on CCTV footage. After detaining him in Bihar, he was produced at a local court for transit and brought to Nalgonda.
In the FIR registered by Miryalaguda police on Friday, Maruthi Rao was named as Accused No 1 and Subash Sharma as Accused No 2.
"Accused no 3, Asgar Ali –an accused in earlier cases –was sentenced by a court earlier, but later acquitted. Mohammed Bari, a resident of Malakpet in Hyderabad, knew Amrutha’s father Maruthi Rao since 2011." - Nalgonda SP, AV Ranganath said
Shiva is Maruthi Rao's driver and was also part of the conspiracy, according to the police.
The plan was hatched around June this year, the police officer said.
"The murder plot began in June-July. Asgar and Bari, who are childhood friends, met Karim and Maruthi Rao in Miryalaguda. They sat in a car and spoke and began brokering for the deal. The demand first was for Rs two-and-a-half crore but they settled for 1 crore. They asked Rs 50 lakh for advance but they settled on Rs 16 lakh. The same day the first part of advance Rs 16 lakh was paid and they showed Pranay's house to Bari and Asgar," the SP said.
According to the police, a wedding reception for the couple in August angered Maruthi Rao and he wanted the murder executed as soon as possible.
Pranay, a Dalit from the SC Mala community, had married Amrutha, a woman from the Komati community (Vyshya), in January this year. However, Amrutha’s father, who had strongly opposed their marriage, allegedly hatched a plan to kill Pranay.
On 14 September, when Pranay and Amrutha, who is five months pregnant, were coming out of a private hospital in Miryalaguda following a health checkup with a gynaecologist, an unidentified assailant followed Pranay and attacked him with a machete. Pranay succumbed almost immediately after suffering two heavy blows to his head and neck.
Fearing violence, police had provided protection to both Maruthi Rao’s family and Pranay’s family following the daylight murder.
Maruthi Rao is a realtor and businessman, who is said to be very influential in Miryalaguda town of Nalgonda district with strong network of local politicians. He has several criminal cases against him, including illegal land grabbing.
This caste-based killing sparked wide outrage across Telangana. Several Dalit students and activists thronged Muthireddy Kunta in Miryalaguda demanding the arrest of Maruthi Rao and his brother, Sravan, allegedly a co-conspirator in the murder.
Speaking to TNM earlier, Amrutha had alleged that her uncle had physically assaulted her for going against her family’s will. She also said that her father had threatened them with dire consequences several times. “He had told me multiple times that he would kill him as I did not obey his wishes.”
Amrutha also said that Maruthi Rao had called her a few minutes before the gruesome murder of her husband. She alleged that her father had blocked her number previously, but when they spoke on Friday, he reportedly asked her to get an abortion.
Pranay and Amrutha got married in January, defying the threats of Maruthi Rao at the Arya Samaj in Hyderabad.
Both of them were studying in Hyderabad at different educational institutions. Though Pranay’s parents didn’t know about their marriage and initially opposed it fearing violence by Maruthi Rao’s family, they later accepted them.
After getting their marriage registered, the couple approached police for protection. Police also said that they counselled Maruthi Rao following the wedding, who had then allegedly said he would not resort to violence.
During his interrogation, Maruthi Rao allegedly told the police that his “honour” and “prestige” were more important than his daughter’s happiness.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)
. Read more on India by The Quint.Two Arrested for Murder of Class 11 Boy Outside Haryana SchoolPodcast: Adil Hussain on Bollywood, Sridevi and the Oscars . Read more on India by The Quint.