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UK MPs back probe over Sikh woman’s alleged honour killing

UK MPs have backed a family’s campaign for a new investigation into the alleged honour killing of a British Sikh woman while she was on holiday in India.

Seeta Kaur, who has been named for the first time this week after her case emerged earlier this month, was a mother of four who died in “highly suspicious circumstances” in March 2015 after refusing to allow one of her sons to be adopted by her childless brother-in-law, during a trip to Haryana.

Her UK-based family, including twin sister Geeta, claim the 33-year-old was the victim of “a classic case of honour killing” with MPs Naz Shah and Kate Osamor now backing them at an event in the British Parliament complex to launch the ‘Justice for Seeta’ campaign this week.

“It is the extraterritorial nature of this crime that has made it so difficult to seek justice for Seeta. Honour killings should not be sidelined as an issue affecting only certain communities. This is a feminist issue,” said Osamor.

Southall Black Sisters, a UK-based human rights group for minority women, is leading the campaign, claiming Seeta’s family have been unable to get Indian police to investigate her death properly.

“On March 31, her family in London received a call in the middle of the night to say that she had died. The ostensible cause of death was a heart attack. On hearing the news, her family travelled there immediately with the intention of bringing her body back to the UK. They allege that they saw marks of strangulation on her dead body. But their testimony is their only evidence, because she was cremated,” says Rahila Gupta, from Southall Black Sisters.

Seeta’s four young children remain in India with their father even though they were made wards of the court by a British High Court in April 2015, ordering their immediate return to the UK.

“No assistance has been offered by any British agency to get the children back to this country,” said Gupta.

The family say they have proof Seeta was under pressure to give up one of her sons to her husband’s brother and his wife in India, who were childless and wanted a male heir.

They allege that her husband resigned his job, tried to sell his car and cancelled his car insurance before the trip with the intention of not returning to the UK.

Shamik Dutta, a lawyer acting for the family, said “If our police forces are serious about honour-based violence and honour-based killing they must recognise the extraterritorial nature of that crime and make sure that perpetrators do not feel they have anywhere to hide”.

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said, “We are in the process of responding to a number of queries raised with us by a firm of solicitors acting on behalf of the family of Seeta”.

Earlier this month the family had written to UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson, calling for a new investigation.

In the letter to Johnson, representatives of the family say Seeta was “tricked” into going on a family trip to India, where she died after a heated argument with her husband.

The husband, a Hindu builder who lives with his family in north London, could not be contacted for comment.
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