Gender equality and gender justice remain a distant dream in Kerala, a state with a highly literate population, as the state continues to witness gruesome murders of young women by youth for trivial reasons which go by the name of “love”.
In the latest incident, a 22-year-old Nithina Mol of Thalayolaparambu was murdered by her classmate, Abhishek Baiju of Koothattukulam, on Friday when she came out of the St Thomas College in Pala, after attending an examination at around 11.30 am.
Nithina was doing her BVoc (Bachelor of Vocational Studies) in Food Science. The accused, who was madly in love with Nithina, slit her throat with a paper cutter following an argument near the college stadium. She collapsed soon after and was rushed to a nearby hospital by the students and onlookers but she succumbed to her injuries.
After committing the horrendous crime, the stalker Abhishek apparently showed no remorse. He was subsequently taken into custody by the Pala police and has been booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 302 (Punishment for Murder) and subsequently remanded in judicial custody.
Abhishek initially told the police that he didn’t intend to kill Nithina but admitted to sending threatening messages to her. Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP), Pala, Shaju Jose told The Federal that Abhishek was furious over Nithina distancing herself from him.
“They had an affair two years ago. Lately, he suspected that she was in love with another youth. He confronted and questioned her about it. But he was not satisfied with the reply she gave. Hence, he attacked her,” said Shaju Jose, who is part of the investigating team.
“We have to ascertain whether he carried the paper cutter in his pant pocket with an intention to attack her,” he noted. The youth’s father, Baiju, told media persons that he was aware of his son’s affair with Nithina but discouraged his son from continuing the relationship and advised him to focus on his studies.
It is alleged that when his parents objected to his affair with Nithina, he banged his head on the wall in protest.
The security guard of the college, who witnessed the murder, said that he saw Abhishek and Nithina engaged in a verbal duel before Abhishek attacked her. The people of Kozhippilly village from where Abhishek hails were stunned and surprised when they heard about the “calm youth” murdering his friend.
The villagers claim that Abhishek, who is a good arm-wrestler is an introvert. Nithina’s father had deserted her mother, Bindu. She always assured her mother that their life would change for the better once she got a job. The deceased was active in social work and was reportedly a member of the local unit of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).
Kottayam District Superintendent of Police (SP), Shilpa Dyavaiah, detailed to The Federal the measures being implemented by the Pinarayi Vijayan government with regard to women’s security. But she said that unless the person in distress seeks the help of the police, there is little the police could do.
“We’re taking lots of measures in schools and colleges to emphasise the importance of mental health and women’s security,” she added.
To prevent abuse against women and children, the state home department has launched several programmes to ensure women’s security. For instance, under Nirbhayam — an initiative for enhancing women’s safety — an app has been developed under which emergency help is ensured for women in distress. Through this app, the police would immediately attend a distress message within 10 minutes in any part of the state.
According to the sources, the app automatically sends the location of the caller to the nearest police control room or station, which is transmitted immediately to the police team available nearest to the location of the person who has sent the distress signal.
Another project, ‘Aparajitha is Online’ is a quick response mechanism for grievance redressal of online-based harassment of women and girls.
The other projects meant for women’s security include ‘Pink Beat Patrols,’ with cars equipped with GPS tracking devices as well as cameras installed on the front and rear side of the vehicles. “The patrol with women police officers will be deployed in areas that have a high presence of women and will function from 8 am to 8 pm,” said Dyavaiah.
Unfortunately, this is not the first of its kind murder in Kerala. Recently, Manasa PV, a house surgery student of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Gender Sciences in Nellikuzhi, Kothamangalam, was murdered by a Kannur native, Rakhil Raghuthaman — who later killed himself. The reason for this murder was almost similar to Nithina’s case.
Soon after reports of Nithina’s murder went viral, the state higher education minister R Bindu said such incidents bring the mental health issues of college students to the fore and this needs more attention.
“The UGC has directed the universities to implement the Jeevani scheme, which offers free counselling to students in all colleges. Government colleges already have counsellors as part of the programme. This programme will be extended to all colleges,” she said.
Recently, Health and Family Welfare Minister Veena George informed the state Assembly that 350 young women have died in the state in the last four years over reasons related to “love”. Of the total, ten young women were murdered by spurned youths, while 340 women died by suicide.