Mamta Mali was beaten by her mother-in-law before she killed herself and her daughters, aged between one and five, said Anil Maheshwari, a senior police officer in Madhya Pradesh state.
The fan and television were promised by Mali’s parents as dowry to her husband’s family at the time of their wedding six years ago, he said.
“The victim was tortured mentally and sometimes even assaulted physically,” Maheshwari said. “Yesterday, she was attacked by her mother-in-law. When the eldest daughter returned from school, Mamta took all the three children and was seen crying profusely.”
Police recovered the bodies from the well in Dhaman village, 100 miles south of Bhopal, the state capital, and were collecting evidence to charge Mali’s husband and mother-in-law with dowry deaths and abetment of suicide, Maheshwari said.
If convicted, the two could both be jailed for seven years.
Indian law prohibits giving or receiving dowry, but the social custom persists. Each year, thousands of young Indian women are doused with gasoline and burned to death because the groom or his family felt the dowry was inadequate.
A dowry can range from furniture, land, cash, and consumer goods to paying the husband’s college fees or migration costs. In India, nearly 25,000 women report being victims of dowry-related violence every year.