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Cuddalore woman murder: Distraught family seeks justice as police probe sexual assault angle

On May 8, 34-year-old Mahendran hurriedly entered his sister’s residence in Karuveppilankurichi of Cuddalore district only to find his niece lying in a pool of blood. 19-year-old Savitha* had called him just five minutes ago and begged him to hurry home. Mahendran, who works as a cab driver, had a car at his disposal and immediately rushed to her aid.

“When I got there, I was surprised to see the door was bolted from outside, but I just opened it and went in,” he says, his voice trembling. “Inside, Savitha was covered in blood and lying on the bed. She had been stabbed in her stomach and her wrist had been cut. She was just about alive,” he explains.

When he called the emergency number for an ambulance, he was told that the nearest one was at Virudachalam and it will take some time for it to arrive at the village. Not wanting to risk more blood loss, he immediately carried Savitha into the car he was driving.

“I called her father who was working at a construction site nearby and together we took her to the government hospital,” he explains. “The whole time she kept saying, ‘Please save me uncle’, ‘Please save me’. And when her murmurs stopped and her eyes began to roll back, I knew it was over,” he says, his voice breaking.

Protests over brutal murder

Savitha was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. A day later, 19-year-old Akash, a Dalit man from the same village, was booked for her murder. Despite what seemed like immediate action from the police, protests broke out in Cuddalore, with the girl’s family, who belong to the Vanniyar community, demanding justice for her death.

“It was a one-sided love affair. Akash came to the house and tried to convince her to marry him but when she said no, he killed her, ” alleges Mahendran.

But if the police had already arrested the accused, why the protests?

“Because they are trying to pin the blame on us. They are accusing me and her father of killing her over a love affair. They beat us up and tried to make us admit it. But we refused,” he alleges.

When TNM contacted the police, they dismissed allegations of investigating it as a caste-crime and maintained that the only accused in the case was Akash.

“We spoke to the uncle and father because they were first ones at the crime scene. It is just procedure,” says an investigating official from Virudachalam. “Both families involved are unnecessarily politicising the issue at the behest of certain political parties,” he adds.

Politicisation and police investigation

Akash’s father wrote to the District SP stating that his son and Savitha had been in love for four years and that she had been killed by the family because she was in a relationship with a Dalit man. He accused her relatives of having killed her and then pinning the blame on his son.

Following this, protests broke out in Virudachalam.

“But by then, we had already remanded the accused,” says the investigating official. “In fact, he had gone and confessed to the Village Officer about the crime and they both came to the station to let him surrender. An FIR was filed for murder but this information made no difference to the protesters,” he adds.

On May 9, the Vanniyar-dominant PMK’s founder Dr Ramadoss released a statement alleging that this was yet another instance of ‘nadaga kadhal’ or fake love. He accused Akash of being part of a group of Dalit men who attempted to make Vanniyar women fall in love with them to extort money. He alleged that Savitha was killed for refusing to fall into this trap. The VCK meanwhile alleged that it could be a case of honour-killing and demanded a CBI probe into the matter, for a fair investigation.

Police officials looking into the case however, point out that both parties are wrong.

‘Tried to sexually assault her’

Savitha, who was doing her second year in BA Literature at a college in the district, knew Akash from the time they were schoolmates.

“We spoke to her friends who confirmed that the two of them knew each other very well. In her books too she has written both their names in several places,” says the investigating official.

“Their ties however soured after Akash discontinued his college course. She found that he was not being focused and was always wasting time with friends. So, she slowly avoided talking to him,” he adds.

While Savitha’s father vehemently disagrees that his daughter knew the accused, her uncle admits that Akash would often come to their house to collect school notebooks and question papers.

“On the day of the murder, Akash had come to confront her over not talking to him. We suspect that he then tried to force her to have sexual relation with him. When she refused, he murdered her,” says the investigating officer. “We have this in his written confessional statement. We have sent his undergarments for forensic testing before we include any charges of sexual assault,” he adds.

Meanwhile, a confessional video by Akash has gone viral on social networks, but police say that it will not be considered evidence.  “It will not be admissible in court. We don’t know who took it yet but it was not from the main investigating team,” says the official. “From our side, we have done whatever is necessary to take this case forward and ensure justice for the victim,” he adds.

But for Savitha’s family, politics aside, the loss remains haunting.

“She was such a bright girl and always knew what she wanted. She was fearless,” says Mahendran. “She could speak English well and always passed in first class. I want to remember her for all these good things but all I can think of is the lifeless body, covered in blood.”

Editor’s Note: Though the young woman’s name has been reported, we are withholding it now as police are probing the angle of suspected sexual assault.

Source: The News Minute