- She is survived by her two daughters, aged four and six, whose custody currently lies with her husband Ranjodhbeer Singh Sandhu.
Mandeep Kaur, a 30-year-old Indian American woman from New York took her own life this week, following years of alleged domestic abuse by her husband Ranjodhbeer Singh Sandhu. She is survived by her two daughters, aged four and six, whose custody currently lies with Sandhu. They live in the Richmond Hill section of Queens. Kaur originally belongs to Uttar Pradesh in India and was living in the U.S. for the past eight years.
According to the Instagram page TheKaurMovement, the New York Police Department is investigating the case as a homicide rather than a case of suicide.
The Kaur Movement is a non-profit that has been fighting for the rights of NRI women who are victims of abuse. The group has also been in touch with the NYPD to ensure that Kaur’s body is sent back to her parents in India, her children are rescued, and that action is taken against the husband.
In a video posted by The KaurMovement on Instagram, Kaur describes the violence and abuse throughout her married life. Showing her bruises and blood clots, she explained how her in-laws encouraged the abuse. “I am really very sad. It has been eight years. I have tried my best. I was beaten up every day. I have been suffering from him and his beatings, thinking that he will improve someday. But no, he beat me up for eight years. Had extra-marital affairs. We lived there (in India) for the first two and “Then we came here. He would get drunk and beat me up. Sometimes he would beat me even without being drunk. He would beat me and on top of that, be with other women. I tried to put up with it for my children,” she adds. “My father registered a police case. Then he started begging, saying, ‘save me, save me.’ I saved him. I tried to set everything right. But my in-laws didn’t do anything to help me. God will show everyone. I won’t say anything. God will punish everyone. You all ganged up and left me helpless. I have to leave my kids and go now.”
In another video, Sandhu is allegedly captured pushing her onto a bed and strangling her as she cries for help. Kaur is heard saying: “I refuse to take this anymore.” In the same video, her children can be heard crying, “Papa, no maaro mumma nu” (Papa, stop hitting mom), while she is being abused.
Following the suicide, a protest was held outside Sandhu’s home in Queens demanding justice. A video shared by Japneet Singh, a Democratic candidate for the New York state Senate, shows several Indian Americans holding placards and protesting. “Oppression begins when we remain silent,” he says in an Instagram post. “When we think if we remain silent, things will get better. When we brush a serious issue under the rug,” he adds. “We lost a sister due to this mentality. But this was just one of many we’ve lost to domestic violence and one of many we will continue to lose if we don’t speak up,” he writes. “A few years ago, maybe we as a community would have brushed this under the rug as well. But, in 2022 we are boldly stating ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”
Kaur’s suicide has once again put the spotlight on the plight of abandoned and abused NRI brides.
A press release issued by Sikh Women’s Aid, a UK-based organization that works against abuse within the Sikh and Punjabi communities, said it was saddened to learn of the suicide of the young Sikh Punjabi mother. “She describes a life of abuse, belittling and violence,” it said, adding that the organization was unable to share many of the videos and photos of the woman as they showed her bleeding and bruised. “The Sikh Women’s Aid is currently sitting on two domestic homicide reviews on Sikh women who were murdered by their husbands. Our recent surveys showed that 70% of all respondents had suffered a form of domestic abuse. And 35% of respondents had experienced sexual abuse and exploitation as children. The Sikh community is in a crisis, and the number of deaths of women to domestic abuse is rising.”
Reports in Indian media, citing data from the Ministry of External Affairs say one NRI wife calls back home to seek help every eight hours. The MEA has received 3,955 complaints of domestic abuse from NRI wives from 2017-2020,” reports in the Indian media say, quoting a report in Economic & Political Weekly (EPW), the EPW also notes that 50,000 criminal cases have been filed in NRI marriages under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty). The maximum number of cases has been filed in Punjab, where 32,000 NRI brides have filed FIRs.The National Commission of Women (NCW) has received 30,865 complaints as of March 2022.
Several people took to Twitter to call for #JusticeForMandeep, pointing out how society failed Kaur, and how the case has thrown light, yet again, on the toxic culture that celebrates masculinity.
Aasees Kaur, a Sikh American woman from Atlanta tweeted: “Our sister, Mandeep Kaur, of New York took her own life because her husband abused her, beat her, and cursed her for birthing two girls. All the while he was having extramarital affairs and was an alcoholic. Aggression kills. Alcohol kills. Patriarchy kills. Sexism kills.”
Amber Dhaliwal of California wrote that Kaur’s suicide needs to be talked about.
A user named Nimrata Sandhu tweeted that “Mandeep Kaur isn’t the first case of domestic abuse and won’t be the last until the Punjabi community starts to hold abusers accountable.”
Gurshamshir Singh, who describes himself as an “aspiring journalist” on his Twitter profile wrote: “There are colossal problems in our family & social structure which we conveniently ignore or deny to accept. #DomesticViolence against women is one such serious problem. Suicide by Mandeep Kaur a NRI Punjabi woman is a wake up call to accept the problem and fix it accordingly.”
For some like Harleen Kaur Arora, co-founder of The South Asian & Tamil Women’s Collective, Kaur’s suicide triggered old wounds. “I know Mandeep Kaur’s story/ experiences bc that was my mother’s experiences living with an alcoholic/abusive husband for 25 yrs and raising 2 daughters in a family that wanted boys.”