Indian police arrested a teenage boy on Tuesday on suspicion of beheading his pregnant sister with the help of their mother in what has been called an “honour killing”.
The victim, Kirti Thore, 19, married friend Avinash Thore, 21, in a court wedding in June after the couple eloped from their home in the Aurangabad district of western Maharashtra state and started living near the family.
But authorities said the victim’s brother, 17, and mother Shobha Mote visited the couple’s home unexpectedly on Sunday afternoon, shortly before the murderous attack.
Police believe the brother decapitated Thore with a sickle as she made tea. Neighbours told authorities that they saw the pair displaying the severed head for the crowd who had gathered after hearing screams.
“She went to the kitchen to make tea, her brother took out an 18-inch-long sickle and hit her in the neck,” Kailash Prajapati, Vaijapur sub-divisional police officer, told The National.
Mr Prajapati said the mother is believed to have held the victim down while the brother repeatedly stuck her in the neck to sever her head.
Police believe the arrested teenager then attacked his sister's husband in the next room. He was wounded but managed to escape.
The victim's mother and brother went to a police station and confessed to the crime. They reportedly said that they were unhappy with the victim's decision to marry the man who belonged to an economically disadvantaged class.
“They said they were angry because their daughter had eloped. They wanted a better groom for her,” Mr Prajapati said.
Both have been charged with murder and the teenager has been sent to a juvenile home.
Honour killings — where couples or individuals are killed because their families disapprove of their relationships — have been common for centuries in India, especially over social, economic and religious matters.
They are often carried out by close relatives and justified as an attempt to protect the family reputation in a conservative society.
The Supreme Court in 2011 ruled those involved in honour killings should face the death penalty and in another judgment in 2018 said anyone attempting or preventing two consenting adults from marrying was acting illegally.
In November, the Court upheld the conviction of 33 people involved in the public hanging of a couple and their friend after the pair eloped and married against the wishes of their caste community in 1991. A regional court had sentenced 25 of them to life in jail and eight were handed death sentences that were commuted on appeal.
As many as 145 honour killings were reported between 2017-2019, government figures show.