The brutal rape and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit woman in Kerala’s Kuruppampady village has sparked protests both on the streets and online, where the case has drawn comparisons with the December 16, 2012 gangrape that shook the national capital.
Among those who have visited the woman’s mother — admitted to a hospital because she is in shock — are Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, CPM veteran V S Achuthanandan, MP Innocent and actor Jayaram.
“I could not stand before the mother. I have witnessed several heart wrenching incidents. But I have no words to console her,” wrote Achuthanandan on Facebook after meeting the mother. Chandy promised to bring the guilty to book and requested that the issue not be politicised. The case also found an echo in Rajya Sabha, with members raising the issue and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot saying he will visit the woman’s village.
At the centre of the case that has made national headlines is a family that lived in abject poverty for decades, surrounded by a well-to-do neighbourhood. The mother and daughter used to share a two-room hut covered by an asbestos sheet, with no toilet and no water.
“As they did not have any water, they would defecate on newspapers, pack the waste and throw it on barren land away from their home. Ever since her death, the irrigation department has released water to the canal next to which their hut is located,” said police sources involved in the probe.
A few years ago, the Dalit family was given Rs 3 lakh under a government scheme to construct a house in another village, but it remains unfinished because of financial constraints.
The mother and daughter, said those in the vicinity, led an “isolated life”.
“The mother suffered occasional bouts of psychiatric disorder. On such occasions, she would quarrel with people passing their house. The daughter was a good woman, but she had to face discrimination because of her mother’s disorder,” said Siji Saju, a member of the village panchayat.
The daughter, a law student, had to face neglect even in death. Police said neighbours were reluctant to approach the mother on Thursday night when she started screaming for help. At her cremation on Friday, only close relatives, and no neighbours, showed up.
Locals said the mother, who works as a domestic help, returned at 8.30 pm and found the door locked. When her daughter did not open, she started screaming. The neighbours kept their distance, but one of them informed Saju, who called the police.
Police reached at 9.40 pm and went inside through the back door to find the body lying next to an unplastered brick wall. As the mother became hysterical, shouting “you killed my daughter”, she was taken to a government hospital.
On Wednesday, she recounted how her daughter’s dreams were weighed down by financial constraints. “My daughter wanted to become a lawyer to fight the discrimination our people face. She had not passed a few LLB papers. She wanted to complete the course, but only after our house was constructed,” she said, crying inconsolably. She said her husband walked out on the family two decades ago.
To make ends meet, the daughter briefly worked as a clerk in a private hospital.
The state government has ordered a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the victim’s mother and a government job for her elder sister.
Meanwhile, the Director of Medical Education, Dr V Geetha, has ordered a probe into the autopsy conducted following the murder. “There were reports that a postgraduate medical student at Alappuzha medical college conducted the autopsy. I have asked the principal to submit a report,” said Dr Geetha.
The medical college submitted the post-mortem report on Wednesday, six days after the murder. According to the report, the victim sustained 38 injuries, apart from being smothered and strangulated. A sharp object was used to attack her genitals. She was also attacked on her neck and chest, and sustained damage to her liver.