Two days after the gruesome murder of a 38-year-old Rajathi, a transgender woman, in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi district, police are yet to nab her alleged killer. "We almost caught him last night but he just managed to escape,” an investigating officer told TNM on Monday morning.
Rajathi was a priest at a temple in SS Manikapuram area in Thoothukudi. The main accused, 23-year-old Maruthu, used to work as the secretary of the same temple earlier. Rajathi and Maruthu were reportedly in a relationship, but Rajathi drifted apart after Maruthu decided to marry someone else. According to sources in the trans community, the accused had been harassing Rajathi for the past year.
On Friday morning, Maruthu and another man entered the temple carrying a sickle while Rajathi was performing a pooja inside the sanctum. They attacked her, chopped her body and placed her head outside the temple, Grace Banu, founder of Trans Rights Now Collective and a native of Thoothukudi, told TNM.
The Thoothukudi police have set up five teams to nab the accused. "When Rajathi and Maruthu were in a relationship, he was the secretary of the temple and she gave him a lot of financial help. She helped him set up a shop and even bought him a water lorry. But when news of him getting married reached her, she moved away and became close to another man," the officer said, “He got angry that she was leaving him and also because he lost his secretary post this year. So he killed her.”
However, so far the police haven’t managed to get hold of him. “Today, we are caught up in security details because of the Sterlite verdict. We will catch him soon. We are yet to name his aide in the FIR because we haven't identified who exactly it is," the officer said.
Questioning the police’s lax attitude, Grace Banu pointed out that they would have swung into action if the victim had been a cis man or cis woman.
Also, while trans persons gathered at the village to protest the murder, the others in the village have largely remained silent.
"They know who the accused is and they still haven't caught him. If a cis man or cis woman had been murdered in the temple premises, just imagine the kind of protests that would have erupted in that area,” Grace Banu said, “But now, because she was a trans woman, even though she was a priest who was murdered inside a temple, there has been no action yet."