His bride killed by her own father, a soldier left shattered: Kerala’s caste killing

Brijesh had taken leave for his wedding and had a new quarters ready for his bride.
His bride killed by her own father, a soldier left shattered: Kerala’s caste killing
His bride killed by her own father, a soldier left shattered: Kerala’s caste killing
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Clutching a gold thaali in his hand, 27-year-old Brijesh, an army man from Koyilandy, walked into the Medical College Hospital in Kerala’s Kozhikode on the morning of March 23. He had been told that his bride-to-be, Athira, had sustained some minor injuries in a scuffle with her father, and that she was therefore in the hospital. But Brijesh was determined to tie the knot at the scheduled time – determined after a lot of strife and negotiation.

When he reached the hospital though, Brijesh came to know that there was nothing minor about what had happened. Athira was dead – allegedly killed by her own father, Rajan, in a fit of rage. The reason? The 21-year-old Ezhava (OBC) woman was getting married to a Dalit (Pulaya) man, and Rajan could not stomach the fact.

And just hours before she was murdered by her own father, Athira – Brijesh says – had called him to tell her she was scared.

“She told me that he had come home drunk and that she was scared. The last time we spoke was at around 3 pm that evening, when she called me to say that I should complete all wedding preparations soon," Brijesh says.

Athira's father Rajan stabbed her to death at around 4.30 the same evening.

Athira and Brijesh

Athira worked at a hospital in Manjeri as a lab technician, and Brijesh is a soldier currently posted in UP. The duo met for the first time in 2015, when she was working at a hospital in Kozhikode. Brijesh had visited the hospital for his mother’s treatment, and soon, Athira and Brijesh fell in love.

A year later, Brijesh's mother passed away. His extended family knew of his relationship with a woman from another caste, and they did not object. Brijesh's aunt Balamani tells TNM that the family had planned to get the two married sometime after May this year.

However, the plans had to change when Athira’s family started looking for grooms for her.

"Athira had to tell her parents about her relationship with Brijesh, when she started getting other marriage proposals. A few days before the incident, she got another proposal and she sternly told her father that she wanted to marry Brijesh,” Balamani says.

But Athira’s family did not accept the match. Brijesh says that both her father and brother were against their relationship, since he belonged to a lower caste.

"Many times, her father has called me up and threatened me to sever ties with her. But we did not budge, we were sure we wanted to be together," Brijesh says.

But Rajan, too, did not budge.

“Problems between them began then, and her father even troubled her at her workplace. This is when she took a week's leave and went to stay with her friend," Balamani says.

The negotiation and the murder

After Athira left home, her father filed a missing persons complaint at the Areacode police station. Soon, the policemen, who were under the impression that Brijesh had abducted Athira, asked him to bring her back to her parents.

"I was in UP at that time. When I got the call from the police, I told them that she was not with me. They asked me to bring her back to Areacode and assured me that her family has agreed to get us married. So I took 45 days leave and came home," Brijesh says.

His aunt Balamani says that since Athira had left home and was scared to go back to her father, they had planned to get the duo married at a temple in Koyilandi. But that is when the police intervened.

Once at the police station, Rajan reportedly agreed to conduct the wedding and not cause any hindrance. While Brijesh says that Athira was scared to go back with her father, the police forced her to.

"She kept saying that she was scared to go with him, but the police asked her to. After all, the wedding was to take place in five days. We thought there won't be any more problems," Brijesh says.

Brijesh couldn't have been more wrong.

"The day before the wedding she had called me in the morning and said that she fears her father would do something terrible,” Brijesh recalls, still shocked.

And the couple's worst fears came true when Rajan, in an inebriated condition, stabbed Athira. He also reportedly burnt the items Athira had bought for the wedding.

Life without Athira

Brijesh and his family saw Athira's body at the hospital morgue and returned home.

"We didn't want to go to her house… We were worried what the reaction of the local people would be. Her family also requested us not to go there when the body was brought home," Brijesh says.

That was the first and the last time his aunt Balamani saw Athira.

"We knew about the relationship… She used to speak to us on phone, but I had never met her. Neither have we met her family. The wedding plan was a sudden development and even after agreeing to it, her father wasn't quite convinced," she says.

Although the wedding never happened, Brijesh's family is in mourning for their daughter-in-law who never made it to their home.

"According to our beliefs, we don't move out of home for a few days after a family member has died. We also don't eat non-vegetarian food. We are observing all that for her," Balamani says.

As for Brijesh, when he leaves Kerala after his 45 days of leave, he would return to a new quarters in UP, that was sanctioned so that his wife could move in with him.

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