On Friday, 29 April, newspapers in Kerala carried a small report on a ‘found-dead’ case in Perumbavoor in Kerala. It took another three days for the news, buried somewhere in the inside pages, to hit headlines on the front page.
The local police tried to hush-up the gravity of the incident. The political activists in the locality were too busy canvassing votes. But the savagery in which Jisha, a Dalit student of Govt. Law College, Ernakulam, was raped, strangled and put to death at her roadside house, was so shocking that it could not be concealed for long.
The 30-year-old had 38 injuries on her body. Her private parts bore deep and wide cuts. But the post-mortem was done callously. Nobody bothered to record the procedures on video. The body was hurriedly cremated, leaving fewer marks behind. The State Police Chief would ask you to show him the rule where it is mandated to record post mortem on video!
But yes, his “the best sleuths in Kerala police” probing the case are groping in the dark, even after a week lapsed.
After May Day, the leaders woke up. Big hue and cry followed. The political chest-thumping continues even today. The culprit (s) is still at large.
Jisha and her mother were living in a single room house in a small patch of revenue land, on the banks of a canal. The house had no safe door, nor a proper roof. They were one among three lakh families who were waiting for the government to grant them a piece of land to rest and a roof above their head.
Despite all odds, Jisha studied well. She was a good dancer too.
"We were always living in fear," wails Sarojini, mother of Jisha, who is yet to recover from the loss. Traumatised by the ghastly scene of her child lying in a pool of blood inside the house when she returned from work on 28 April, Sarojini is still at the government taluk Hospital. Her husband abandoned Sarojini years ago, leaving two girl children behind. Sarojini was left with no option but to take up menial jobs to feed her children.
A group of women activists visited the locality after the incident and were taken aback to know that the girl was living in constant fear. "She was living in the house with a pen-camera fitted on her body," said advocate TB Mini. She was expecting an attack anytime, she added. The poor Dalit family was living on the fringe of the society and the locals did not support them in any way, the activists said.
"She was living in the house with a pen-camera fitted on her body," said advocate TB Mini. She was expecting an attack anytime, she added. The poor Dalit family was living on the fringe of the society and the locals did not support them in any way, the activists said.
Kerala State Women's Commission Chairperson Rosakkutty also expressed surprise at the neighbours' indifference to the family and their non-cooperation.
Once chased by a stranger, Jisha had lodged a complaint with the local police in 2005. In 2007, Sarojini had approached the police seeking safety of her daughter. In 2008, during a rainy night, somebody pointed a flashlight at the shack, she complained. Recently, someone repeatedly pelted stones at the house around midnight.
Her worst fears turned true on that despicable day.
Assaulted in broad daylight, raped and savaged, the bright young woman who wanted to be a lawyer and to hold her head high, lay dead and torn. The rapist had confirmed that she was indeed dead.
It was a grim reminder of the Nirbhaya incident that shook the conscience of the country. Jisha, of course, is not the first incident of brutal rape and murder in Kerala. There are many victims of rape culture in the state that boasts itself as God's Own Country. Some of them are dead like Jisha, and in most cases the proof was too flimsy and the culprits walked free. Some still live, like the girl from Sooryanelly who was traded and raped by several men. Only a few got punished. But some of the accused in the case scaled new heights and occupy hot seats. You know them, without naming.
Jisha is a grim reminder of the crimes we committed, of social neglect, of discrimination and above all, she reminds us of the crimes we comfortably covered up.
Nevertheless, let us hope that Jisha will be the last.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:31 PM IST