The suicide of a woman of Indian descent in New York – citing years of abuse at the hands of her husband “because he only gave birth to daughters” – has sparked angry conversations about stigma in the community. “I tolerated all of that and hoped that one day he would get better,” says Mandeep Kaur, 30, in a video that has gone viral.
“It’s been eight years, I can’t take the daily beatings anymore,” the mother of two daughters — ages 6 and 4 — says over and over, crying.
Speaking in Punjabi, she accuses her husband and in-laws of ‘forcing’ her to commit suicide. “Daddy, I’m going to die, please forgive me.”
She died on August 4, her family in Uttar Pradesh told NDTV. Her father, Jaspal Singh, has filed a complaint with the local police station in UP for assisting in suicide against the husband who lives in the US and his parents who live in India. “We want our granddaughters to be safe now. They are still with their father,” he added.
The Indian Consulate in New York has promised help.
The marriage of Mandeep Kaur and Ranjodhbeer Singh Sandhu from different villages in UP’s Bijnor was arranged in 2015. Her family said he was already working as a trucker in the US, and she joined him three years later. There has not yet been any response from the husband or his family – some of whom live in India – and no information on concrete legal action against them.
Kaur’s family in Bijnor said they hoped the abuse would one day end. “We intervened once and even went to the police in New York with a video of him hitting her,” the father said, “but she told us to step back and make things up with him.” She said she was worried about her future daughters.” Now the family has asked the government for help to bring her body to India.
Several videos of the husband apparently abusing her have gone viral, including one of the daughters yelling, “Dad, well maaro mamma nu (Dad, don’t hit mom).” In another, captured by a security camera inside the house, she tries to stand up for herself — “I refuse to take it any further” — but he slaps her until she elicits an apology, per NDTV could not independently verify these videos, some of which she sent to her family.
In the video, which details the abuse, she talks about how her family reacted after he “held me captive in a truck for five days.” “My father filed a complaint against him with the police. But he begged and begged me to save him… and I did.”
She also alleges extramarital affairs and says his family “didn’t say anything…which again allows for the violence.”
The video was shared on Instagram by The Kaur Movement, an organization that works to help victims of sexual and domestic abuse and focuses on the Sikh community. Clips were also shared on Twitter and Facebook by several people who commented on “family and social structure”.
There are colossal problems in our family and social structure that we conveniently ignore or refuse to accept. #Domestic Violence against women is such a serious problem. Suicide by Mandeep Kaur, an NRI Punjabi woman, is a wake-up call to accept the problem and address it appropriately. pic.twitter.com/F8WpkiLCZY
— Gurshamshir Singh (@gurshamshir) August 5, 2022
Bigger questions pop up between angry reactions online and offline.
Demonstrators demanding justice gathered outside their home in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of New York. Some Punjab activists also visited their families in Bijnor.
On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, people from several countries – particularly Sikh and Punjabi diaspora – used the hashtag #JusticeForMandeep. Many posts said society had let them down. On the other hand, some people post videos in which they “make them bigger than they are”.
Punjab Rajya Sabha member Raghav Chadha of AAP said in a tweet: “I have asked the minister for time [for] External Affairs to request his timely intervention.”
We are all shocked by the tragic news of Mandeep Kaur’s suicide in New York due to domestic violence and abuse. My prayers are with the injured family and their children and I have asked the Secretary of State for time to request his timely intervention to ensure justice.#MandeepKaurpic.twitter.com/gqfeNgE8Qg
— Raghav Chadha (@raghav_chadha) August 6, 2022
The UK-based NGO Sikh Women’s Aid, which also campaigns against abuse in the Sikh and Punjabi communities, issued a statement expressing their grief: “She describes a life of abuse, degradation and violence. “