The widow of Pranesh Kumar alias Javed Sheikh, who was killed with Ishrat Jahan in an alleged fake encounter in 2004, has said that she would take forward the legal battle of her father-in-law Gopinatha Pillai.
Pillai, 77, died last Friday in a Kochi hospital after suffering injuries in a road accident on Wednesday. After the alleged fake encounter, Pillai had joined Jahan’s mother in fighting the case in the Supreme Court.
Pranesh’s wife Sajida, who now lives in Pune with her two sons and a daughter, said, “I would carry forward the legal battle of my father-in-law, who wanted to see those behind his son’s killing punished. When he was alive, he used to tell me that if anything happens to him… I should be there to handle the cases. He had discussed everything about the issue with me,” said Sajida, a school teacher.
Sajida said they do not suspect any foul play in Pillai’s accident. “It was a road accident. We don’t find any external factor in it,” she said.
According to police, Pillai, who lived at Thamarakkulam in Alappuzha district, met with the accident on his way to Kochi. The car, driven by his younger brother Madhavan Pillai, was hit from behind by a truck. The car lost control, went across the road median and collided with another truck.
Police said Pillai sustained serious injuries, leading to his death the next day.
At Thamarakkulam village, Pillai lived with his eldest son Aravind, who is mentally-challenged. After the death of Pranesh, Pillai, who worked in a private firm in Pune, sold half of his six acres of rubber plantation to rehabilitate Sajida and her children. He bought three flats for them and rented out two to ensure income for them.
Pillai’s friend R Siva Prasad recalled, “Pillai, a local leader of upper caste Hindu Nair community, had never objected to Pranesh’s marriage with a Muslim woman. He had also accepted his son’s conversion to Islam.”
Prasad said Pillai had spent a major chunk of his savings in the legal battle. “Pillai used to tell me that the label of a terrorist’s father had shattered him. After the fake killings of 2004, even neighbours were afraid to meet Pillai. BJP had marched to the house of Pillai. In Gujarat, where he went several times to depose before the SIT, he was denied entry to lodges. It was the finding of the SIT in 2011 that Jahan and others were killed in a fake encounter that gave him some relief,” said Prasad.