One and half months after the 30-year old law student, Jisha, was brutally murdered in her one-room poramboke apartment in broad day light, the state police has arrested one person in the case, suspected to be her murderer. The cops claim that the suspect, one Amir Ul Islam, is a migrant labourer from Assam, and has already confessed to the murder.
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, which took over in May, can take its due credit. Arresting Jisha’s murderer was one of the key poll promises of the party. One of the first decisions by Vijayan after he assumed office as chief minister was to constitute a fresh probe team for the Jisha case under ADGP B Sandhya.
The Jisha murder case is one of the rarest cases in Kerala’s recent political history to shake the state’s political conscience. The inability of the UDF government to nab the accused even several days after the incident had irked the society and presumably played a critical role in deciding the outcome of the Assembly elections in May. This became one of the biggest poll planks during campaigns for Communist parties against the Oommen Chandy government.
The case also opened up a wider debate on women's safety, Dalit discrimination and socio-cultural change in ‘God’s own country’. Candlelight prayers followed for Jisha and she was given a new tag: Kerala’s Nirbhaya, in reference to Jyoti Singh, the woman who died after she was gang raped in Delhi in December 2012. Jisha's one-room house in Perumbavoor soon turned into a frequent visiting spot for top politicians across political parties and became a symbol of political inaction, social insecurity and Dalit discrimination in the southern state.
The initial apathy of state police to Jisha’s family's plight (her mother, Rajeshwari, too resided with her) and lax attitude in dealing with the case (the body was allegedly cremated in a hurry before collecting evidence) came under heavy criticism. Before the murder, Rajeshwari had lodged complaints at the local police station more than once, citing threats to her life and those of her children, but no action was taken. Jisha too had a feeling of lack of safety. That’s the reason she slept at night with a sickle under her pillow, out of fear of criminals.
The case gained even more political attention when a social activist, Jomon Puthanpurackal, alleged that a senior Congress leader is behind Jisha’s murder. But subsequently, United Democratic Front (UDF) Convener PP Thankachan denied any role in the case.
The Jisha case should also been seen in the context of thousands of homeless people in Kerala and elsewhere. A report in the Deccan Chronicle quoting surveys conducted by the Planning Board across all panchayats in Kerala show that the housing situation in the state is quite alarming. Going by this, there are 12 lakh homeless families in the state and most of them belong to the marginalised sections of society: SC, ST, fishermen, landless, destitute and women-headed households.
There are various government schemes at the state level and local body level which promise housing to the poor and downtrodden, but the benefits hardly reach them. Jisha, who belonged to a Dalit family, too had approached the local authorities to build a safe house, but never received any assistance. Jisha’s mother too had complained to Manorama News about lack of cooperation from the local authorities to build a house.
The case should be an eye opener to authorities and police across states to take precautions to avert future cases.
Let there be no more Jishas and Nirbhayas.