In the past week since the murder of Chennai techie Swathi, rumours have swirled round and questions on the girl’s character have been more frequent, weakening the actual discourse around the safety of women. Mohammed Bilal, a close friend of Swathi’s spoke to The News Minute, thanking the police for their speedy investigation, and expressing concerns over the treatment of the murder by the media and the public.
“These multiple theories that were floating around from the moment she was found dead, this could have easily deterred investigation, but it didn’t. And for that, I am thankful. Despite limited information and innumerable hearsay theories, Ramkumar was nabbed,” Bilal told The News Minute.
Bilal confirmed that Swathi had complained about a stalker multiple times. “Since the first week of May, Swathi had been telling me and a few of her close friends on a WhatsApp group that she felt like she was being followed. The same man would appear multiple times near her home and at the Nungambakkam station where she boarded every morning. It has happened on different days, I think she has told us around five times. She told us that she didn’t think much of it, because he never approached directly to speak to her.” Bilal and her friends did urge her to bring it up with her parents or file a complaint, but she felt it wasn’t as terrible a situation as they had anticipated. The stalking was sporadic over the two months,” he said.
But Bilal highlighted what he believed was the “saddest, most pitiful thing” that has emerged from this one week. “Everyone has the right to live their lives the way they want to. We all have that basic freedom. It is when an incident like this happens that many people’s attitudes are put to the test in society. One accusation of love jihad, another accusation of communal motives, and the most angering – that the murder is somehow justified if she was in ‘wrong’ company,” he added.
Bilal says the endless haranguing over whom she was with, what she would have done, how she would have provoked a man upset her close circle of friends, who always knew her to be a private, no nonsense person.
“She was a living being, not an object. Her stalker wanted to make her his own, and if he couldn’t have her, he may have decided that nobody else should. If anything, we should be talking about this mentality, not whom she was with or whom she was not with,” Bilal said.
For Bilal and his friends, who fondly remember her joyful Whatsapp conversations and her funny jibes, the speculations came as a rude shock. “Only her family and her friends know her. These rumours only revealed one thing to us, ultimately only clues and factual evidence matter. What four people who have never even met her before think about Swathi is irrelevant,” he said.
Rushing to perform his namaaz, Bilal sighed and took a moment to compose himself. “Swathi’s beauty lies in her smile. We sought our sense of comfort during this tough time from her smile. Nothing will take that memory away,” he said, bidding goodbye, “Now I have to go thank the Lord.”