The death of a young Kerala domestic abuse victim and her father's fight for justice

Anliya Hygenous went missing from Thrissur Railway station on August 25, 2018. A few days later, her body was found in a river.
The death of a young Kerala domestic abuse victim and her father's fight for justice
The death of a young Kerala domestic abuse victim and her father's fight for justice
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“I did not lose my daughter, but my best friend… yes, my friend, that’s how I would describe my mol (daughter),” says Hygenous Parakkal, who recently quit his job in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for his daughter Anliya – to ensure she gets justice. On August 25, 2018, Anliya was reported missing from Thrissur Railway station. Three days later, on the night of August 28, her body was found in Periyar river in Aluva.

Over four months after Anliya's death, her husband, VV Justin, who was a suspect in the case, surrendered before a Judicial Magistrate court in Thrissur on January 19. But this first step towards justice for Anliya did not come easy. While Hygenous had filed a case accusing Justin right after Anliya’s death, the case did not move. Hygenous and his wife, Leelamma, had to move countries, piece together what evidence Anliya had left behind, and knock on the doors of the Chief Minister of Kerala before any action was taken.

And it was Anliya herself who ensured that Justin was put behind bars. The victim of domestic violence left behind a diary chronicling the abuse she faced at his hands, which became crucial in the case.

Days after Justin’s arrest, Hygenous speaks to TNM from his house in Kochi. “My daughter always stressed that she will marry the person that ‘papa’ likes. And that was Justin, a decision that I regret, and is giving me sleepless nights,” Hygenous says while attending to the stream of visitors to his house.

An arranged match

Anliya, a nursing graduate from Kerala, was working at the Jeddah National Hospital as a staff nurse when she received a marriage proposal from Justin in 2015.  “We found Justin on a matrimonial site, where his profile said that he worked in Dubai,” Hygenous says.

Anliya and Justin got married on December 26, 2016. Anliya, who was 23 years old then, resigned from her job in Saudi Arabia to join her husband in Dubai, only to eventually learn that he had produced fake certificates to get a job. The couple had to leave Dubai in May 2017 and return to Thrissur.

The couple had a child on January 2, 2018.

What the diary revealed

Weeks after Anliya’s death, Hygenous and Leelamma found a key in a flower vase in their house in Kochi. It was the key to Anliya’s cupboard, which contained a journal – Anliya’s diary entries that chronicled her life since the day of her betrothal to Justin. 

Several pages of the diary revealed the domestic abuse she was subjected to by both her husband and his family. Some of the pages, which TNM accessed, predicted what was to befall her.   

“If anything happens to me, my husband and his family will be responsible,” wrote Anliya on one of the pages in her diary.

In another page, she said: “I thought everything will be fine when I reach Kerala. Like everybody, I had a lot of dreams and aspirations before and after the wedding. I considered Justin to be somebody who understood and fulfilled my wishes. When I left for the Gulf after the wedding and came to his house, Justin did not even give me Rs 100 for myself. I am surviving with the money that Papa and Mummy gave me. Justy is behaving completely different.”

“When I spoke to him before the wedding, I thought there would be no better person than him in this world. Now, only sadness remain in my life. I am tired of my life... tired,” she wrote.

“There is nobody with whom I can share my sorrows or who will understand them. I feel loneliness… always alone. One needs some happiness to cherish in life. I have not received that yet. I have a lot to write, but I am unable to do so. I am holding on for the sake of my child. I have not been fortunate to get a life that I always dreamt of. A loving husband and family have not been destined for me. They removed the mask of decency soon after the wedding. I don't have a reason to be happy. This life is going ahead aimlessly, like a boat. I don't desire much. I just need a husband who will love me, care for me and give me his attention. But, I am not receiving a portion of the love I am giving him,” another entry said.

She also mentions how her in-laws treated her. “My mother-in-law is a sadist. I am not liking Justin’s mother’s questions and talks. Maybe if anything happens to me, no one (will) reveal the reality... What's happening in my life… none knows the reality...what I face day-to-day in my life after marriage now,” wrote Analiya.

Fearing for her life, Anliya even left a note for her then unborn child. 

“We realised how bad her marriage was through her diary,” says Hygenous, “but there were always signs of tension between Justin and Anliya.”

Justin’s deceit

Although a graduate in nursing, Anliya did not want to become a nurse. She wanted to be a lecturer at a nursing college. She had made this clear to Justin before getting married. “But once Anliya reached Dubai, Justin tried to get her into a hospital for a job as a staff nurse. She did not protest since they were just married. She did not get the job since she had to write an exam to get into a hospital in Dubai. This, Justin, a Commerce graduate, did not understand. He immediately called his mom and said Anliya’s nursing graduate certificate is fake. His parents launched a tirade against us. That was the beginning of all the problems that ensued,” says Hygenous.

Justin’s mother asked him to send Anliya to Kerala. “When she asked us to come to Dubai for support, Justin soon revealed that he lost his job. He said that the police will imprison them if they stayed back in Dubai. It made me realise that if the police were involved – he might have committed some crime. However, we brushed it aside and helped them get settled in Kerala,” he says. 

According to Hygenous, Justin often lied to Anliya. They fought multiple times over his suspected relationship with a member of his family. He once forcefully took her to a hospital alleging that she is suffering from a mental illness.

“Justin also physically assaulted her once. Her brother saw the marks on her face the next day and confronted him. Since I was in Saudi Arabia then, we decided to file a police complaint, explaining the mental harassment she was subjected to. That’s when Anliya wrote a complaint to Kadavanthra police in April 2018. However, when my brothers in Kerala confronted Justin, he promised never to raise his hand against her. And hence, the complaint was never filed,” he says.

The fateful journey

Anliya decided to complete her Masters in nursing, for that was one promise Hygenous had made when he married his daughter off to Justin. On August 4, 2018, Justin dropped Anliya in Bengaluru, where she would take the exams for her MSc in nursing, which was a distance education programme. While she was in Bengaluru, Justin and his family always gave excuses to not let her speak with her then seven-month-old baby, says Hygenous.

“On August 22, Anliya called me, explained the situation and asked if she should go home to meet her child. I asked her to go. She reached Thrissur on August 23 and had even booked her return ticket for August 27. But she called me on August 24 and told me she was returning to Bengaluru, as the circumstances at Justin’s place were not right,” he says.

Anliya’s message to her brother Abhishek, too, was suffused with hints that she was in danger. Abhishek, who calls Anliya by her sobriquet Aparna, told TNM that she hung up on him the day she reached Thrissur. “On August 25, around 3.30 pm, she sent me a message saying that she was at Thrissur Railway station and was heading back to Bengaluru. Her train was at 8 pm. Justin was also with her at the railway station,” he recalls.

These were some of her last messages to Abhishek before she went “missing”.

“I am going back... Scene at house... I want to go back... Ammachi (her mother-in-law), Justin.. Making problem... If I stay back at home, they will kill me. I can’t stay… With Justy (Justin)… Justy did not let me go to police station… I am not secure in Justin’s house… Let Justin stay with his mom. They tried to keep my child away from me. Don't hurt Papa and Mummy, okay? They suffered a lot because of me. I can't bear this anymore. With my baby's first and last Onam (sic). If anything happens to me, don't leave the mother and the son. Tell my child that I loved him.”

Abhishek, who was in Coimbatore, asked his sister to stay back and give him time until he reached Thrissur. “But around 5.30 pm, I received a call from Justin’s father, who told me that Anliya is missing and asked if she had come to Coimbatore. I was surprised, because I was chatting with her just an hour before that. The next call I got was from a police official, asking me if Anliya had gone to any relative’s house,” he recalls.

“And then, a few days later, my daughter’s body was found in the river,” says Hygenous.

“I made a mistake; my wife, son and relatives blame me for that. I ignored all the criticisms for getting Anliya married to Justin. Today, it is haunting me. I cannot sleep in the house where Anliya stayed. I lost my life. She asked me to raise her child like how I raised her. Even their neighbours asked why I sent my child to a family who never interacted with others. I sent my child to a family that is inhumane. But I did not know.... I never knew I was giving away my child to death…” says Hygenous, as he breaks down.

The funeral

Circumstances did not look good even after Anliya’s death. “Justin refused to identify Anliya’s body. He had already removed the wedding ring from his finger. Justin and his family did not attend the funeral. They did not even let the child see its own mother,” he says.

The day Anliya “went missing”, Justin informed the Railway officials. Instead of informing Anliya’s parents, Justin asked the officials to convey the news.

Hygenous also suspects the involvement of a priest, Father Vipin, who is also their close friend. “On the day of my daughter’s funeral, Fr Vipin came to warn me, that if I pursue a case against Justin, he will support the latter. My daughter had once asked me not to let Fr Vipin inside our house and that she lost trust in any men. So one can understand what she meant,” Hygenous tells TNM, hours after he held a press meet to convey his suspicion.

Soon after their daughter’s funeral, Hygenous and Leelamma took ill and were hospitalised. On recovering, Anliya’s parents started putting together shreds of evidence from their own apartment in Kochi – the evidence that their 25-year-old had left behind, should something bad happen to her. A diary, a police complaint that was never filed, and drawings – all pointing to domestic violence.

Hygenous decided to fight for his “favourite child”. He gave up his job, decided to push harder for justice and knocked on the door of the Chief Minister, who then handed over the case to the Crime Branch.

“The day the case was officially handed over to us, Justin surrendered before a Magistrate Court in Thrissur, on January 19,” Special Branch DySp Ullas tells TNM. “He was remanded to judicial custody. I then filed an application for his custody and finally, on Wednesday, the court handed him over to the custody of the Crime Branch,” he adds.     

Anliya’s child is currently with Justin’s family. “They have refused to give us the child as they say that the child’s father is still alive. But once the case against Justin is proved, we will file an application for our grandson’s custody,” Hygenous tells TNM.

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