Following the major uproar, online and in Kochi, around the mysterious death of 18-year-old Mishel Shaji, Monday saw two significant developments in the case. The Kochi police began interrogation of a 26-year-old man named Cronin, who was allegedly repeatedly calling Mishel and compelling her to enter into a relationship with him.
Simultaneously, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced in the Assembly that the case would be investigated by the Crime Branch.
Mishel, an aspiring Chartered Accountant who was residing in a hostel in Kacheripady, was last seen alive exiting the St Antonyâ€™s Shrine in Kaloor on the evening of March 5. The next day, she was found dead in the waters near the Kochi Wharf.
The Ernakulam police, who believe that Mishel killed herself because she was depressed about being compelled by Cronin to enter into a relationship she did not want, tracked him down through the calling list in Mishelâ€™s phone.
According to Circle Inspector Ananthalal of the Ernakulam Central Station, Cronin, a Piravam native, currently resides in Chhattisgarh, where he works as a junior general manager in a private firm. After police tracked down his number, they contacted him and summoned him to Kochi, where he is currently being interrogated on the nature of his interactions with Mishel.
While these investigations proceed along the police theory of Mishelâ€™s death being a suicide, Mishelâ€™s family has not been convinced by this version of events. Mishelâ€™s father Shaji earlier told TNM that he does not believe Mishel, a strong and smart young woman, would commit suicide. He has been repeatedly demanding a fuller probe into the case, particularly into the identity of two men who are seen on a motorbike in the CCTV footage from the St Antonyâ€™s Shrine.
Shaji told TNM that they suspect that the two men were following Mishel, although the police have asserted that there is no evidence to support this suspicion. However, many in Kochi and elsewhere have refused to accept this assertion of the police, and protests are being launched online and in Kochi demanding justice for Mishel.
On Monday morning these eruptions made their way into the Assembly, when Opposition MLA Anoop Jacob sought permission to move an adjournment motion. Following this, CM Pinarayi announced that a full investigation would be conducted by the Crime Branch. He also announced that any lapses by officers currently investigating the case would also be examined.
However, the Opposition claimed that a Crime Branch investigation would be insufficient and demanded a special investigation team be formed to conduct the investigation. With the CM announcing a Crime Branch investigation, the Speaker denied permission for an adjournment motion. The Opposition then walked out of the Assembly.