M Aswini, a BCom student at Meenakshi Academy of Higher Education and Research, was stabbed to death on Friday outside her college in KK Nagar, Chennai. In a script that seems to repeat itself time and again, Aswini’s killer was reportedly stalking her for several months.
The man, identified as Alagesan, and Aswini had known each other for some years. He is presently employed as a part-time health and sanitation worker.
According to a police officer at the Maduravoyal police station who had met the victim on February 16, though Aswini and Alagesan knew each other, she was not interested in getting married to him.
TNM's Priyanka Thirumurthy has seen the contents of the complaint made by Aswini. The complaint says, "He and I were in a relationship but after some time, I realised that he was not a good person. Therefore I decided to leave this relationship, but he continued to harass me."
Despite Aswini’s decision, Alagesan persisted in stalking and harassing her.
Aswini went to the police and filed a complaint on February 16, after which the police called in Alagesan, Aswini and their respective parents.
“We spoke to them, warned him and let them off,” two police officers confirmed to TNM.
Police sources said that Aswini’s family did not want to file an FIR because they did not want a hindrance in her education. “So, we counselled them and took written statements from both. We gave Aswini our number in case she faced trouble from Alagesan. But we didn’t receive a call from her after that,” a source said.
However, Aswini’s aunt Saraswathi told mediapersons that the family had asked the police to take strict action against Alagesan. But, he was never arrested and just sent back home. “He came with a lawyer when the police called him. They didn’t keep him in for even a day, and sent him back on the same day,” she alleged.
Aswini’s father, Mohan, was a construction worker and died when she was a small child. Her distraught mother, who supported the family by finding employment as a domestic worker, told media persons, "They should not leave Alagesan. I worked in other people's houses and scrubbed their vessels to be able to bring up my daughter. I protected my daughter to well. He should not be spared."
Aswini's family waiting outside the mortuary in Royalpettah
Aswini was a resident of Maduravoyal in Chennai, and Alagesan also belongs to the same area.
Due to Alagesan’s persistent harassment, Aswini reportedly shifted to her relatives’ house in Jafferkhanpet in order to get away from Alagesan, and continue going to college.
There were reports by both English and Tamil media that Aswini and Alagesan were married and that he had tied a thaali (mangalsutra) on her neck. However, both the family and police categorically denied this.
“They were not married. He did not tie a thaali, he tried. She was harassed by him and came to us,” Inspector Miller told TNM.
A reporter asked Aswini’s uncle Sridhar about the ‘wedding’ and ‘divorce’ and he retorted, “How can you even ask this question? She was a minor. He was harassing her. That’s why she stayed with us.”
However, Alagesan managed to track her down to her college in KK Nagar, slit her throat with a knife and tried to escape.
He was caught by the bystanders, who thrashed him, tied him up, and handed him over to the Chennai police.
‘Police shouldn’t ignore complaints’
K Santhakumari, a senior lawyer in the Madras High Court, told TNM that the police tend to ignore complaints of sexual harassment many a time, and that this must change.
"The station should mandatorily accept the complaint and send it to head office. This sends a message to the aggressor," she argues.
"It is for the police to take action. The Police Commissioner should also have a periodic review of these complaints and ascertain if there are certain stations where such crimes happen more," she adds.
The police are conducting inquiries with Aswini’s friends, college authorities and eyewitnesses.