Kerala, considered to be one of the most progressive states in India, saw its own version of a Khap panchayat – the rural police – who objected to the love affair of two consenting adults
On 4th February, 2014, Aparna, a 24 year old Malayalee nurse, was threatened by the Kerala police at the Perumbavur (an hour away from Ernakulam) police station that she would be arrested for immoral acts. The threat was made when she appealed to them for protection from her family because she had been locked and beaten up for wanting to marry the man she chose.
Despite her screams for help, Aparna was dragged from the police station by her uncle, businessman Ranjan T, and her mother with the help of the police and shut up again in her house. For a week before that she had been kept prisoner at another uncle’s – Vasanta Kumar house in Malappuram district.
The trouble started when Aparna introduced Samar to her family. Aparna and Samar were not intending on marriage right away. They were merely introducing each other to their respective families. The objection to Samar was that he is only half a Malayalee Nair – what Aparna’s ‘uncle’ Vasanth Kumar (who claims to be a BJP leader) termed as a Mixed Hindu. Besides this, the accusation was that he is a divorcee, that he is 11 years older and that the astrological charts do not match.
On the 29th January, Aparna was told that her mother was near death, weeping and saying all she wanted was for her daughter to come and see her once, and she could go back. When she reached Perumbavur, from Bangalore where she worked at a clinic, she was immediately locked up in the house with the doors and windows shut so that no one could hear her scream.
The next morning she was taken to Manjeri, Malapuram, to her uncle Vasanta Kumar’s house. Threats against Samar were made, that if he comes to Kerala Vasanta Kumar would make sure the Ezhava community was goaded on caste lines to attack the young man. He also claimed he had the support of the BJP. Aparna managed to send a desperate text message to Samar to save her, and to get legal help.
Accordingly, Samar filed a habeas corpus writ in the Kerala High Court, and the court directed the police in Manjeri and Perumbavur to record the girl’s statement, independently, in private. Samar went to the Manjeri police station with his father, since he was told by his advocate Kaleeshwaram Raj, that if the girl wanted to walk out with him, she could, as an adult and no one could stop her. However, the law was not upheld.
In Manjeri, the SHO Nazar C K, at first denied any knowledge of Aparna’s uncle; he would have to consult the cyber cell. When Gouri, a local activist called the local BJP office, she found out immediately who he was. Samar then approached the Circle Inspector (CI) Krishnadas, who promised to record Aparna’s statement. Anweshi’s K Ajitha also spoke with the CI. When Krishnadas asked SHO Nazar to contact Aparna, he reported that the house was locked and the family had for Ooty. The CI called a family friend Yusuf, and said they would have to produce the girl. They agreed to bring her to the police station the next afternoon.
Aparna, whose phone had been confiscated, and the sim card removed (this was, she was informed by her family, so that the cyber cell could safely not be able to find her), was given back the phone. She was told they would agree to let her marry if she agreed to stay at home for 6 months and not testify against her family. Aparna and Samar suspected the idea was to break her spirit, and either get her married, or and whisk her away to Qatar where Yusuf claimed to have a job lined up for her. She was also told that the police had been adequately persuaded to support the family and that if she did not cooperate, false cases would be filed against Samar, and he would also be seriously injured.
The family wanted Aparna to file a rape case against Samar so that the police could arrest him which Aparna promptly refused. When Aparna was produced at the Manjeri police station, the SHO Nazar told her that if she said she was being held against her will, they would have to arrest her family – did she want to do that? Be careful what you say, he said, be a good daughter – go with your family. They then took her to a local magistrate who ‘handed over custody’ of the 24-year-old -woman to her mother on the basis that she might run away before they could present her in court. When Samar – who was not allowed by the police to speak with Aparna – tried to point out that she could leave with him if she wanted and that CI Krishnadas had agreed with it too, the SHO threatened and shouted at him to get out of there or else.
Two days later, the scene was to be repeated in Perumbavur. Except that this time Aparna rebelled. Meanwhile her phone mysteriously blocked all numbers except Samar’s. Everything they spoke was somehow known to her family. Samar’s smartphone suddenly lost all recordings of conversations that he had with Aparna and her family, including testimonies he had recorded. Samar’s family started getting missed calls from blank numbers. Yusuf and the family crowed that the Kerala police cyber cell was on their side.
In Perumbavur, Aparna told the local SHO K P Sreedharan to record that she was being kept prisoner, that she wanted police protection; that she did not want to go back. Sreedharan refused. He watched as her uncle Ranjan T, physically threatened her and dragged the screaming woman back home. When she said she would speak out before the judge on the 6th of February in the High Court, the SHO also told her she need not be produced, that she would not get the chance. Aparna hired a lawyer, Anila George, on the phone to represent her, from her illegal prison at home. Her family informed her that since it was now war, they were mobilising local people and that Samar would lose his life after the court date is over. They indicated that the judgment was already in their favour.
On 6th February, the case was called in the court but the family did not produce Aparna. The local police supported the woman’s family and disposed to the court that Samar is a divorcee and hence cannot be trusted. Therefore the family wishes to protect their daughter. However the judge ordered that Aparna must be produced at the court and the next hearing was scheduled for 13th February.
Experts from the letter sent by Samar’s mother to FeministsIndia e-group