There are several reporters in Ward No 5 at the Kuruppampady Taluk Hospital, where Rajeshwari has been admitted since her daughter Jisha was allegedly sexually assaulted and brutally killed last Thursday in her house.
To all of them, Rajeshwari speaks as if her daughter was still alive.
Since the day my child was born, we shared meals together. How can I eat when my child is probably starving somewhere? Can anybody tell me whether she has eaten?Rajeshwari, Jisha’s mother
As Rajeshwari breaks down, her elder daughter and Jisha’s sister, Deepa, tries to pacify her mother.
The story of Jisha’s family is the story of a family struggling to make a living. They were surrounded by neighbours they feared and resented. Jisha belonged to the backward Ezhava community.
After being forced to discontinue her BA degree within a year of beginning the course, Jisha enrolled for an LLB in Ernakulam Government Law College in 2012 with a sense of purpose.
She wants to fight for people like us, poor people, those who have been discriminated against.
Always poor, Rajeshwari struggled to raise her daughters and took up several odd jobs to feed her family, including working in a flour mill.
I’ve even approached churches and mosques to ask for money.
Family Faced Harassment By Their Neighbours
The manner in which Rajeswari and Deepa describe their neighbours suggests mutual hostility, and possibly even discrimination.
Rajeshwari and Jisha lived in a small house in Kuruppampady village. Her elder daughter Deepa lived with her husband’s family ever since she got married in 2004.
After that, my mother started growing restless, as Jisha had to stay home all day alone.Deepa, Jisha’s Sister
The house in which they lived was allotted to Jisha’s father’s family during Indira Gandhi’s tenure as Prime Minister. Rajeshwari continued to live in the house even though her husband left them several years ago.
Since the day we moved into that house 40 years ago, not one day has passed without the neighbours troubling us.
Rajeshwari says that the neighbours destroyed their water pipes, forcing them to draw water from a canal next to the house. She says they were not allowed to draw water from anywhere else.
In 40 years of living there, not once have we been to a neighbour’s house.Deepa, Jisha’s Sister
Deepa says that Rajeshwari always feared for her daughters as she felt that the absence of a man made them vulnerable somehow.
Lying in bed at the hospital, Rajeshwari says: “My child is very calm… she is in danger.”
Rajeshwari says that they have been harassed by unknown people many times in the past – people throwing stones at their tiny house and harassing Deepa and Jisha. On several occasions, Rajeshwari alleges, men from the neighbourhood made sexual advances towards Jisha. Both she and Deepa allege that the police did nothing despite repeated complaints.
No Help From the Neighbours
As I walk towards Jisha’s house, some neighbours amble over to ask if I am Jisha’s classmate from law school. Many of them have nasty things to say about Jisha’s mother Rajeshwari.
Jisha was a calm girl, nobody had issues with her. It was her mother we avoided because she showered abuses on anyone who tried to talk to her, let alone look at them.Shashi, Autorickshaw Driver
When Rajeshwari desperately tried to open the door of her house on the night of the murder, no one came to her aid. She had banged on the door, crying, asking for Jisha to open the door.
Recalling the events of that night, Shashi says: “The neighbours were wary of getting involved, as the family kept aloof from others.”
He says that none of the neighbours had known that she was a law student until the media reported it.
Gram Panchayat member Shiji says she came to the spot after one of the neighbours called her and told her what was happening.
She kept banging on the door asking for help. She has a reputation for hurling abuses, no one wanted to get involved. One of the neighbours called the police.Shiji, Gram Panchayat Member
Shiji emphasises that she did everything possible to help Jisha’s family except for receiving the body after the post-mortem. The panchayat looked after the expenses, villagers say.
The house that Jisha was murdered in is a 10-minute walk from the Eravichira temple in the village. It has become a museum of sorts. The few police personnel posted outside do not prohibit anyone from entering it, prompting criticism that crucial evidence may have been lost.
It is unclear whether Rajeshwari will go back to the house once she is discharged. She could stay with her daughter or her brother. She may, eventually, have another house. Back in the hospital, Rajeshwari had said that the family was allotted a site of five cents which is registered in Jisha’s name. The foundation stone for the new house has been laid.
Towards the end of the interview, as reporters left, Rajeshwari cried out: “Please, find her killer.”