Before the three sisters and their children were found dead in a well, they left a message blaming the family they had married into.

Kalu, Kamlesh and Mamta Meena were victims of a dispute over dowries, the often hefty sums Indian parents pay to marry off their daughters.

The sisters had wed brothers from the same household and lived under the same roof, but suffered constant violence from their husbands and in-laws, according to the trio’s grieving relatives. They were abused constantly, they say, including when their father failed to meet demands for more money.

All three were found dead last month near their marital home, a village on the outskirts of Jaipur, along with Kalu’s four-year-old son and infant child.

Both Kamlesh and Mamta were pregnant. “We don’t wish to die but death is better than their abuse,” read a message on WhatsApp left by one of the sisters after their disappearance, a cousin said.

“Our in-laws are the reason behind our deaths. We are dying together because it’s better than dying every day.” Authorities are investigating and currently treating the deaths as suicides, a senior police officer in Jaipur said.

The sisters’ distraught father, Sardar Meena, said life had been a living hell for his daughters, whose husbands banned them from pursuing their education and constantly harassed them for more payments.

“We had already given them so many things, you can see them in their home,” he said, counting off the beds, television sets and refrigerator he provided to the family.

“I am the father of six girls, there is a limit to how much I can give,” added Sardar, who earns a meagre income as a farmer.

“I had educated them and just doing that was difficult.” Police have arrested the three husbands, their mother and a sister-in-law on charges of dowry harassment and spousal abuse.

AFP’s attempts to contact the men’s family were unsuccessful.

For the Meena sisters, leaving was never seen as an option, even though their relatives were aware of the violence.

“Once they were married, we thought they should remain in their marital homes, to maintain the dignity of the family,” Sardar said.

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