Jisha – A 30-year-old, law student. She lived in a small house with her mother in ‘canal purambokku’ (waste land) in Perumbavoor, Kerala. Jisha’s mother found her in a pool of blood at the one-room house on April 28 with more than 25 stab wounds, her intestines slashed out and her body horribly mutilated, with injuries to her private parts.
The news of the same only came into light on May 2nd through social media – 4 days post the tragedy.
Aside from imagining the horror of the situation – being sexually assaulted and killed in the safety of your own house – another underlying issue over here needs to be urgently addressed.
Finally when the local media opened their eyes to the incident, the best they could come up with was instantly relating it to the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case and brooding over her identity as a Dalit. To no one’s surprise, most media outlets emphasised this as a crime against a Dalit woman (because the Rohith Vemula case already took the title of crime against Dalit man)
While the caste train took off, local politicians unfortunately were unable to acquire any free time from their busy election schedules to acknowledge this case. Polling is a mere two weeks away hence we understand that the political body is busy galvanizing voters with little concern for petty murders that happen every other day anyway.
Of course, post the outrage on social media and few local protesters, the police has shown tremendous seriousness and unrelenting effort on the case, 4 days after it occurred. In fact, they have also detained 3 people for interrogation in the past 6 days.
CM Oommen Chandy took time off to visit Jisha’s mother, assuring her that the victim’s sister would be provided a government job to support the family. Our politicians truly never fail to show their genuine compassion towards victims of emotional trauma and mental scars. (Without any political interests despite it being elections season)
Shrugging off suggestions that the case has been enfeebled because of the delay in investigation and arresting of the culprits, CM Oommen said, “Nothing will block the strong legal action. I assure you government will take it as a very serious thing and we will book the culprits and bring them before the law”.
It is now the sixth day since the incident and police are yet to arrest the culprits. On a side note, Jisha’s mother has also revealed that she had lodged complaint at the local police station earlier stating threat to her life and her children. However no action was taken.
“The neighbours have threatened us several times saying they will kill us by hitting us with a truck… I do not know the reason why they wanted to kill my daughter. She was studying BA, MA an LLB. The other child was married off without my permission. Maybe they (the murderers) feared that once Jisha becomes a lawyer, the old case will be dug out.”
So what exactly is the issue here – the fact that a woman was subject to assault and murder in broad daylight in the safety of her own home or that the concerned authorities did not find it necessary to heed her mother’s pleas and at least conduct a proactive investigation after the act occurred? According to mainstream media, Dalit is the issue.
Headlines for the same read, “Dalit law student raped”, “One held in Dalit woman murder case” and “Nirbhaya-like rape-murder of Dalit law student in Kerala”. She was more than a Dalit. She was a daughter, a sister, a student, a woman, a citizen of the country who deserved to feel safe in the comfort of her home. She deserved to be heard and to be protected when she felt threatened.
Let us separate the obvious news value from the issue and force ourselves to look at the harsh reality of it. Whether her demise was connected to her caste or the simple fact that she was a progressive individual, on her way to success as a lawyer – we need to question how safe we are at our own homes. We need to question the safety of many other individuals like her who are unable to afford proper housing and are subject to baseless discrimination.
There is just so much that has gone wrong with this case – from the neighbours not coming forward to help despite knowing about the assault to the lethargy over the investigation. The outrage has so far mostly been contained only in Kerala with very few people being aware of it in the country – for reasons unknown since the Nirbhaya case literally shook the nation overnight. The only difference between the two cases was that one happened at night on a moving bus while the other happened in the day at the victim’s own house.
The sour truth is that our society has failed to provide for an individual’s dignity and safety at the very least level and political interests are being put on the pedestal even at such times. What use is a “promising” government when we are not even able to ensure basic rights of our people?
It’s time to address the elephant in the room and it is not being Dalit.