"I cannot bring myself to see him again. I do not have the courage to see his lifeless body," Ambika* says, her grief-stricken voice breaking, as she utters his name.
Ambika’s friend Aneesh's lifeless body was found hanging from the branch of a tree outside his home in Palakkad on Thursday. The duo had been victims of moral policing at Kollam district, just a few days ago.
What began as a normal day for 23-year-old Aneesh and 19-year-old Ambika on February 14 at a Kerala beach, soon ended in complete horror.
They had gone to Azheekkal beach in Kollam district to spend some time together. However, the duo had no control over what followed next.
Ambika stepped away from the beach to a secluded area to relieve herself. On seeing her, two men approached her and misbehaved with her, and Aneesh stepped in. Three other men joined and manhandled them, when the duo threatened to inform the police. One of the men then accused the duo of indulging in immoral activities, filmed the entire incident and circulated it on social media.
Ambika told The News Minute that Aneesh had given her the courage to file a police complaint and also motivated her to fight the legal battle.
"He has not contacted me after we approached the police, though he assured me that he would speak to me soon. When we went to file the complaint, he told me that I shouldn't take any extreme step and think about ending my life. He assured me that we had support of everyone who knew we were right. And he told me that he would live till the day he sees justice being done to us, till he was sure that the culprits had been punished. He gave me confidence to live through all of this, I had no indication that he would take his own life," Ambika said.
She is now determined to pursue the legal fight she started with her friend Aneesh. She is still bewildered at how five unknown men literally barged into their lives and turned it upside down.
However, she is relieved that she has the support from most people around her.
"Everyone is of the firm belief that the five men should be punished for what they have done. There are also certain people who are holding me responsible for Aneesh's death. They called me a murderer. They accused me of driving him to suicide. But will these people ever realize that Aneesh was the one who gave me strength to wage this legal battle?" Ambika says.
Speaking to TNM from Aneesh's house in Palakkad's Agali, his childhood friend and neighbour Sujith said that the family had little indication that Aneesh would take his own life.
"The incident had completely devastated him. He returned to Palakkad after filing a police complaint on February 17 and wouldn't talk to anyone. He preferred being left alone. But the arrest of all the five accused had cheered him up, he would enthusiastically inform me about the developments in the case. He was even recovering from the shock, he truly believed that the law will protect him," Sujith said.
His brother Ajeesh and mother were seen lying down beside each other, too drained to even lift their heads. “His mother would occasionally wake up; lament the loss of her younger son and slip back into sleep again. Aneesh's body will be cremated at the compound on Friday evening,” said Sujith.
Prime accused in the case Abhilash (33), Dhaneesh (30), Biju (42), Gireesh (29) and Aneesh (31) were arrested on February 17- the day complaint was filed- and remanded to judicial custody by Karunagapally Frist Class Judicial Magistrate Court. The accused were charged under Section 66 e of the IT act and under sections 143 (Unlawful Assembly), 147 (Rioting), 148 (armed with weapon), 294b (Obscene song), 506 (Criminal Intimidation), 324 and 323 (Causing hurt), 354 (Outrage modesty of a woman) and 149 (Unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code.
*Name changed to protect privacy