28 years!! 28 long years is what it took to finally deliver justice, if we can even call it that, to a 19-year-old girl! The long-drawn murder case of Sr.Abhaya, which had ended up being more of an urban legend, thanks to multiple episodes of botched investigations from Kerala Police, Crime Branch Kerala and even the CBI, finally comes to an end today with the prime accused, a priest and a nun, being convicted, even as another priest who was supposedly present during the murder, was let go owing to lack of evidence.
Back at a time when I was studying in the same college that she was going to at the time of her death, and staying at the same hostel where she was killed, I remember all of us talking about her case almost as if it was just another murder mystery that you watched on screen. Because so many years after the incident, it just didn’t seem real anymore. And even when we were all sent home one day for the CBI to collect evidence, yet again, a decade after the incident, it certainly didn’t feel like the case would ever get solved, unlike in the stupid movie that used the circumstances of her death as a plot and ended up making a joke of it. I still remember the prime accused, Fr. Kottoor, a lecturer at my college, walking along the corridor in front of my class, head held high, full of confidence without even the slightest tinge of remorse or doubt that he would ever be caught.
Authorities themselves destroying evidence and investigators moving court multiple times to close the case as either suicide or as homicide without evidence, countless witnesses turning hostile and refusing to give their original statements in court, remaining witnesses and activists being threatened and pressurized to change their statements – it was one hell of a fight that was put up by the mediators of God and their fanatic devotees in the system to ensure that a poor young girl never finds peace.
But for every witness clad in white, claiming to be servants of God, who lied through their teeth or kept their mouths shut to protect the culprits and the institution they held supreme, there was another witness who refused to budge, refused to be coerced into keeping mum, refused to be scared. I guess the biggest slap on the ‘protectors of God’ who killed Sr. Abhaya and tortured her spirit, came in the form of a petty thief who turned out to be the most crucial witness in the case, based on whose statement the most, the verdict was reached. A thief who sneaked into the hostel to steal and ended up seeing the prime accused at the premises, it was he who stood steadfast through it all, because his conscience didn’t allow him to budge. Think about it!
28 years down, I still don’t know if Sr.Abhaya has really got justice or not. And even if we believe it to be justice, I find it difficult to heave a sigh of relief or celebrate, because in these 28 years, so many other young girls lost their lives in almost similar circumstances, either pushed to suicide or in every probability killed just like Sr.Abhaya, by the very same messengers of God. Would they find justice in 28 years or would their stories end up being urban legends like what almost happened to Sr.Abhaya?