Jisha’s brutal murder in her own home sparked a major debate on whether women in Kerala can feel safe even in their own homes.

Case that shook Keralas conscience Court to give verdict in Jisha rape and murder
news Jisha Case Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 07:06

It was a crime that shook the conscience of Kerala and the nation. The horrifying brutality with which 30-year-old Jisha was attacked, raped and murdered, sparked a massive debate in the state on whether women can feel safe even in their own homes.

More than a year-and-a-half after Jisha’s death, all eyes turn to the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court on Tuesday, as it is set to pronounce its verdict in the case.  

30-year-old Jisha, a Dalit law student hailing from Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district was raped and murdered at her house in Kuruppampadi on April 28, 2016. As details of the gristly incident were revealed, the sheer violence that she had been subjected to had shocked Kerala society. Not only was Jisha subjected to rape, but her body was also mutilated by multiple stab wounds including to her genitals.

Following a long investigation, the investigative team finally submitted a 1,500-page chargesheet on September 17 last year.

The chargesheet named a single accused – Assam native Ameerul Islam. The trial in the case began on April 4, this year. Through the hearings that spanned 85 days, the prosecution presented as many as 195 witnesses, 290 documents and 36 pieces of material evidence against Ameerul, including DNA reports. 

A crime that rocked Kerala

Within days of Jisha’s death, the horrifying crime sparked massive public outrage, as protesters took to the streets across the state demanding justice for the law student. While the brutality of the crime drew parallels to the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012, the slow progress in the case also angered many.

It was only on June 16, 49 days after Jisha was found dead, that the police made their biggest breakthrough in the case with the arrest of Ameerul. Until then, the case moved through a maze of dead-end leads, with multiple inconclusive sketches released, at least seven persons detained and changes in the investigative teams handling the case.

Most disturbingly, one of the men who was initially named as the accused in Jisha’s murder, 37-year-old Sabu, hanged himself to death in July this year. Another man, who resembled one of the sketches put out by the police, nearly lost his job after his picture began to circulate on social media as the prime suspect in the case.

Occurring just before the May 2016 elections in the state, Jisha’s case also turned into a political weapon, with the previous UDF government accused of failing to ensure the safety of women and of being laggard on questions of law and order. When the LDF government came to power, it initiated a fresh probe into the case under ADGP Sandhya.

But the case also raised much more disturbing questions about the position of Dalit women in Kerala society, as ground reports revealed a persistent apathy towards Jisha’s family from those living in the neighbourhood.

TNM’s reporters found that much of the discussion among Jisha’s neighbours revolved around judgements on the “character” of Jisha’s mother and sister. Jisha’s mother Rajeshwari herself narrated incidents of friction with the neighbourhood community, and also talked of a persistent worry about her daughters’ safety that had haunted her for long before Jisha’s death.

Even on the night of the murder, it emerged, neighbours who heard alarming noises coming from Jisha’s house had failed to intervene in any way.

Jisha’s death also exposed a deep schism in Kerala society regarding the place of migrant labourers. Much before Ameerul’s arrest, fingers were first pointed at the migrant population in Perumbavoor, and Jisha’s death became the occasion for calls for stricter monitoring of migrants.

While the police have claimed clinching forensic and scientific evidence to convict Ameerul of the crime, his lawyer BA Aloor has alleged that his client was being framed. In March, Aloor had petitioned the court to stop the trial proceedings, citing a Vigilance Commission report that said there were 16 lapses in the investigation of Jisha’s murder.

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