Thikkakulam street is a narrow slum settlement hidden away from the busy roads of Aynavaram in Chennai. On Wednesday evening, the lane was crowded yet unusually sombre. Residents stood outside their front doors but did not speak. On Sunday night, they had witnessed a shocking crime unfold in front of their houses, when a gang of 10 or more assailants hacked to death Jebaseelan, a 47-year old auto driver and Congress worker, for stopping the marriage of a child.
Outside the entrance of one house, a decked up Mother Mary gazed onto the street from within her glass box. Inside the house, four women sat quietly, grieving in silence. Among them was Violet, Jebaseelan’s mother.
“We do not have any problems with anybody. We are not the sort to create fights,” Violet said, but declined to divulge any other details out of fear.
Jebaseelan, the 47-year-old victim who was an auto driver and social worker, was Violet’s oldest son. According to the family, what started out as a petty fight took a fatal turn after he reported a child marriage that was to take place in the locality to the local police.
“The girl was 16 years old and her marriage to a boy in the neighbourhood was fixed. They started printing out notices of the wedding and sticking it on the walls here. As soon as my son came to know of it, he quickly reported it to the local police who arrived and warned the family, asking them to hold the wedding after the girl turned 18,” Violet told TNM.
Jebaseelan’s reporting of the child marriage led to resentment among the girl's family and the local men. On the night of his murder, he and wife Prescilla were getting ready to attend their own daughter’s wedding reception in Minjur, when he was hacked in full public view.
“I was busy attending the reception when he was hacked in public. How can I forgive myself?” Violet asked, as she fought back her tears.
On Sunday, May 12, five cars from Thikkakulam, carrying friends and family, were leaving to Minjur to attend Jebaseelan’s daughter’s wedding. While four cars were on their way, the victim and his wife Prescilla stayed back to make arrangements for after the reception.
“They wanted to buy meat and other items to prepare for the next day after the reception. They were all dressed up and decided to take their bike and go purchase the items. This was when a group of 10 or more came and hacked them,” a family member seated next to Violet stated. The woman also added that nobody from the vicinity had informed those at the wedding reception of the murder.
“I came home the next day and saw people crying. I came back from the wedding to see my son’s body,” Violet added.
While the attack on Jebaseelan was taking place, his wife Prescilla reportedly shouted, begging them to stop. In the process, she too was brutally attacked, the family adds. Prescilla is currently receiving treatment at Stanley Medical College. She has lost three fingers and has sustained deep cuts on her scalp, neck and arms.
Jebaseelan’s assailants allegedly belong to their neighbourhood and most of the accused are yet to be nabbed. This has forced Violet and her family to grieve with trepidation.
The K2 Aynavaram police have registered a case against the accused under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 341 (wrongful restraint), 294B (sings, recites, utters obscene words etc), 307 (attempt to murder), 302 (murder) and 502(2) (printing of substance with defamatory matter) of the IPC.
“Four of the accused have surrendered before the local magistrate. There are over 10 accused in the case and we are currently on the lookout for them,” the Investigating Officer and Aynavaram station SI told TNM. Police are on the hunt for 21-year-old Vinodh who allegedly plotted and executed the plan to murder Jebaseelan.
Jebaseelan’s body was laid to rest at the CSI church in Otteri. He is survived by his son and daughter, mother Violet and his younger brother, aside from wife Prescilla.