For most of Sunday, Joseph was at the police station, pleading with the sub-inspector to help trace his 23-year-old son Kevin P Joseph who had been kidnapped overnight by relatives of the girl he married two days ago. But the police did not budge. They told him they were busy with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s visit to the district.
Early Monday morning, Joseph woke up to hear that his son’s body had been fished out of a canal 100 km away. Within hours, police concluded that Kevin P Joseph had been killed by a gang led by the girl’s brother. The sub-inspector was suspended, the district SP shunted out and four special teams set up by the CM’s Office to nab the culprits.
But for Joseph, none of that mattered anymore. Speaking from Kottayam medical college, where he was awaiting the body of his son, the heartbroken father said: “Everything is over now…”
The sequence of events that started with a tense wedding at the sub-registrar’s office in Ettumanoor near Kottayam Friday had ended in a tragedy that shook the state.
“Kevin was an electrician from a poor Dalit Christian family in Kottayam. After completing his diploma in electrical engineering, he worked in Dubai briefly before returning last January. Joseph runs a two-wheeler workshop. Neenu is from an influential Christian family at Thenmala in Kollam, her mother is a Muslim. Her parents, particularly her brother Shanu Chacko, were against her affair with Kevin. Shanu is our main suspect and is on the run,” a police officer said.
“After their marriage on Friday, Kevin and Neenu spent several hours at the Gandhi Nagar Police Station after a case was filed by her parents. There was also an attempt by police to forcefully send her back with her parents,” M Rajan, Kevin’s uncle, told.
“Kevin was staying at his cousin Anish’s house at Mannanam, near the city, while Neenu was in a hostel. Early on Sunday, a gang attacked the house and kidnapped Kevin and Anish. The two were badly beaten up. The gang, which came in three vehicles, also vandalised the house. As soon as we came to know of the incident, we rushed to the local police station. Joseph spent the whole day there, from 9.30 am, pleading for help while the sub-inspector kept saying that he was busy with Chief Minister’s visit to inaugurate new facilities at the medical college,” Rajan said.
“Around noon, Anish was dropped back home by the gang. They claimed Kevin P Joseph had escaped from their custody. But early on Monday morning, we received information that Kevin’s body had been found in a canal near the Thenmala forest,” said Rajan.
“I had spoken to Kevin after the marriage. He didn’t tell me about any threat. We have been told that his body will be handed over to us on Tuesday after the post-mortem,” said Joseph.
With the police’s role in the incident sparking outrage, the government moved swiftly. Sub-Inspector M S Shibu was suspended and Kottayam SP P A Mohammed Rafeeque transferred. Apart from setting up the special teams, officials said, the government has ordered that the case would be probed by a DYSP-rank officer, who will also investigate the complaint that the S-I “had accepted a bribe from the girl’s relatives”.
Police officers said Neenu is undergoing treatment at the medical college hospital after she collapsed on hearing about Kevin P Joseph’s death. Earlier, she had told reporters: “The S-I told my father to take me home. He tried to drag me out. I continued to object loudly, and as people gathered at the station, they finally let me off.”
The case also resonated in the state’s political space, especially after reports emerged that local DYFI workers had helped the girl’s brother in the assault and kidnapping. Police said they also suspect the role of a relative of Neenu’s mother in the incident.
With the Opposition Congress and BJP marching to the police station and calling for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kottayam district Tuesday, the DYFI issued a statement saying it had expelled Niyas, the relative of Neenu’s mother, from primary membership.
The DYFI statement said Niyas took part in the crime as a relative of the girl and not for the party. It claimed that Shanu and Neenu’s father is Congress sympathisers and that local CPM workers had actually helped the couple register the marriage.
In a statement, the CM’s office said that one accused has been arrested and one of the vehicles used in the incident taken in custody.
But Joseph is clear that he will not pursue the case with the police any more. “Why should I go to them again?”