“What can I say now? I can’t do anything,” said Brijesh TT, reacting to the acquittal of Rajan, the man who was accused of killing his fiancée, Athira, in 2018.
Athira and Brijesh had been in a relationship since 2015. They had met at a hospital in Kozhikode’s Manjeri when Brijesh, a soldier with the Indian Army, had come there for his mother’s treatment. Athira was working as a lab technician in the hospital at the time.
When they decided to get married, Athira’s father, 44-year-old Rajan, vehemently opposed it. Athira belonged to the Ezhava community – categorised as an Other Backward Caste in Kerala – while Brijesh is from a Dalit community. Athira even left her house, but soon returned after her father filed a missing person complaint. The police and her father had assured her that they would get them married.
Their wedding was finally fixed for March 23, 2018. But even on the eve of their wedding, Rajan could not accept that his daughter was getting married to a Dalit man. He allegedly chased and killed his daughter with a knife in their neighbour’s house. She was stabbed in the chest and succumbed to the injury.
Rajan was accused of murdering his daughter and was arrested, but acquitted after two years, on May 26, 2020. Six prime witnesses in the case – all her family members and neighbours – turned hostile. In its verdict, Manjeri district and sessions court said that there is no evidence to show who inflicted the injury, or any scientific evidence to convict Rajan.
“I was just a witness in the case,” said Brijesh, who is currently on duty in Kolkata. “I could not file a complaint because I had left for my duty after the incident, and that is the nature of my work. But, even if I had given a complaint, it would not hold out, because her family members were the prime witnesses to the crime. I was not there, at the spot, when she was stabbed or when she died,” he said.
“When the police took my statement, they just asked me some basic questions, such as how long we were in a relationship, why did her father oppose our wedding, where the wedding was scheduled to be held,” he said.
Brijesh explained that it was difficult to take leave from duty to appear in the court for testifying. “But I had great support from my seniors and colleagues. My commanding officer then, who is a Malayali, understood when he learned about the case. Even the Chief of Army staff understood my situation and let me go on a 10-day leave for the trial,” said Brijesh, a native of Koyilandy in Kozhikode district.
As witness number three in the case, Brijesh appeared in the court in 2019 to give his testimony. “I told the court everything I knew, witnessed and stated to the police. I could not add anything else, other than requesting the court that this should not happen to any other girl.”
After the verdict acquitting Rajan of the murder came out last month, Brijesh realised it was a lost cause. “The Army organised a special interview with me, to check on me and to see how I am holding up. My colleagues and superiors advised me not to think about it anymore. They supported me,” said the 27-year-old.
After Athira’s death, he joined duty. “I have gone through some losses in my life. I lost my mother four years ago. I joined duty soon after her death as well. It is like, I have placed a stone on my heart… but I am fine,” he repeated.
Yet, there are still some questions bothering Brijesh. “Why was he put in jail for two years if he had not killed her? He even told the media that he killed her and opposed our relationship because of my caste. Only if there was solid scientific evidence or her family members decided not to change their statement, he could have been probably convicted,” he said.
“It’s a closed chapter for me now. But one question still remains – who killed Athira?”