Raichur: On 13 April, a few days before her birthday, a 23-year-old engineering student of Navodaya Institute of Technology from Karnataka's Raichur went missing. Soon after, the parents of the fifth-semester civil engineering student tried to register a missing person's complaint with the police. On 16 April, she was found dead about 5-6 km from her college, behind the Manika Prabhu temple. Her body was half-burnt and was found hanging from a tree. The police recovered a note from the site that stated, "I am the reason for my death."
Owing to the suspicious circumstances under which her body was found, her parents wanted to register a complaint at the Nethajinagar police station alleging that their daughter had been raped and murdered. In her complaint, the mother of the victim alleged that her daughter's death was not a case of suicide because her body was half-burnt when it was found hanging from a tree. After details of the police case emerged, several engineering and medical students from colleges in Raichur gathered to protest and seek justice for the victim. The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO), and members of All India Democratic Youth Organisation (AIDYO), Chetan Banare, Shankarappa Udhbal and Mahesh Chikalaparvi took out a silent march in Raichur on 17 and 18 April.
Spot where the police found the 23-year-old's body. Owing to the suspicious circumstances under which her body was found, her parents wanted to register a complaint alleging that their daughter had been raped and murdered. Image by 101 Reporters
Following the student protest, the police registered a complaint under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 302 and 376 for rape and murder. The police have arrested a suspect, Sudharshan Yadhav, a self-employed youth. "Sudharshan Yadhav has been arrested. After two days the post-mortem reports will be out. From the reports, we will know the clear cause of the death," said Raichur SP, D Kishore Babu.
Police has arrested a suspect. Sudharshan, who is in his mid-twenties has been sent to 14-day judicial remand for interrogation and is being charged under IPC Section 376. Image by 101 Reporters
Sudharshan, who is in his mid-twenties has been sent to 14-day judicial remand for interrogation and is being charged under IPC Section 376. The victim's parents told the police that Sudharshan had been troubling their daughter for the past few years and they suspected that he is responsible for her murder. "This is not a suicide because you can't burn and hang yourself at the same time," said the SP.
As Sudharshan's arrest had not been made public till much later, students took to the streets to protest police inaction. The girl's parents had also alleged that the police had initially refused to file a missing person's complaint stating that she was not a minor. Friends of the victim had seen her attending classes on the morning of 13 April, but she went missing later during the day. Her friends said she did not inform them before leaving college. According to police officials who examined the CCTV footage from Navodaya Institute of Technology, the recordings show the girl entering the college in the morning, but there is no sign of her leaving the campus.
SFI student organisation president Shivukumar Myagalamani said, "As the victim's parents and friends suspected, Sudharshan has been arrested. We will not let go of this case until she and her family get justice. There has been some confusion leading to theories around her committing suicide, but her body was half-burnt before it was hanged. We think she was forced into writing the note found near her body. We will wait for the police to take action once they get the post-mortem reports."
Another student union member said, "We are not going to stop protesting until we get to know the truth. If she doesn't get justice, we the students of Raichur will protest day and night without food and water till justice is done."
Vashanth Kallshetty, the victim's classmate at Navodaya Institute of Technology said, "She was a brave and brilliant girl, who never got involved in anything other than her studies. She was very silent and studious. It is painful to see what happened to her."
This case has got a lot of attention from students across Raichur and beyond. A social media signature campaign has gone viral and gathered over 1 lakh signatures by Saturday, 20 April. Sulochana, AIDWA's Raichur District Secretary said, "What happened to her was very wrong. It is also very disturbing how her life ended so abruptly. We will stand by her family till she gets justice and the truth comes out. We plan to protest in a bigger way in the future."
Authors are freelance writer and members of 101Reporters.com