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Family feud

Delhi woman allegedly murdered by her uncle for challenging him in property dispute

September 30, 2016

A woman has been killed in India after traveling from her home in New Delhi to her ancestral village where she confronted her uncle, a powerful community leader, over his alleged illegal use of her property. Leena Sharma, 39, had planned to build a fence to stop her uncle, Pradeep Sharma, from planting his wheat and grazing his cows on her land without paying rent. After confronting him on the matter, however, she disappeared. Her body was later discovered in a forest, half-naked, after her uncle’s employees confessed to having buried her there.

As a young girl growing up in the region of Madhya Pradesh, Leena had been known for keeping her hair short, beating local boys at arcade games, and for her participation on the state championship swimming team. After college, she moved to Delhi where she worked customer service overnight for a technology outsourcing company.

“It was all fancy for her in Delhi. The nightlife, being independent and not answerable to anybody,” said her friend, Swati Rawat. “She was not a traditional Indian woman. She never wanted kids. She said if her husband wanted her to cook, they’d be eating out or having salad.”

Back in her home village, however, her uncle’s lawyer, Sher Khan, and other men saw Leena as a “loose woman” who came back to the area only to “abuse” her uncle. Land disputes were common in the area — according to the local constable, up to 7 out of 10 slayings in the area were over property disputes — and the matter was complicated further by traditions that dictate only men should inherit ancestral land. Fewer than 13 percent of agricultural land in India is owned by women, according to census data. Those that ignore societal pressures and press their claims anyway risk retaliation, and even accusations of witchcraft. From 2000 to 2014, 2,413 women accused of practicing witchcraft have been killed in 12 Indian states, including Madhya Pradesh, according to crime records.

After Leena came to her property to oversee the construction of the fence, her uncle’s employees later admitted, she was confronted by her uncle and two male assistants. The employees said Leena tried to escape but was caught trying to scale a barbed-wire fence. What followed next, the employees said, was truly horrific.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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