Students hold a protest march demanding justice in the rape and murder case of a law student in Kochi, Kerala on Tuesday. Image Credit: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: A murder most foul in Kerala — apparently on the lines of the horrific killing of the girl ‘Nirbhaya’ in New Delhi in 2012 — has stunned the state and turned the spotlights which had been sharply focused on politicians and parties preparing for the upcoming assembly elections.

The murder of 30-year-old Jisha, a Dalit girl pursuing graduation in law, is believed to have happened on Thursday afternoon, and came to light only after her mother Rajeswari came home from work to find her daughter lying dead in their one-room home near Perumbavur, roughly 15 kilometres from the Kochi international airport.

In the poll-focused state, the news hardly made headlines the following day, and the grisly details are only trickling in, five days after the incident.

Rajeswari’s estranged husband has been living elsewhere for several years. Jisha has a sister who is married.

More than the murder, it is the sheer brutality that the girl suffered that has numbed the state, and even triggered a ‘Justice-for-Jisha’ campaign on social media.

Her attackers are suspected to have raped her and committed mind-numbing torture. Preliminary examination showed two deep stab wounds on her neck and chest, and her intestines had spilled out apparently after the attacker or group of attackers struck an iron rod into her private parts, reminiscent of the trauma inflicted on the Delhi girl.

Local media quoted sources as saying that Jisha was also beaten with an iron rod from the back of her head, and that her nose was broken. There were signs of a struggle in the room, and some wounds on her hands suggested that she had grappled with the culprits before being killed.

Even as cries for justice for the slain girl reverberated on social media, police took into custody two people on Tuesday. Their details were not immediately available. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes department has filed a suo moto case in connection with the murder.

Police have been working on multiple clues, including one report that a bike had hit Rajeswari a few days before the murder, and that Jisha had removed the key of the bike and returned it to the bike riders only after they came home and apologised.

Jisha had been living in Kochi, doing apprenticeship with a lawyer and also preparing to write two subjects in her law graduation course in which she had failed. She would come home on and off, and her visit last week turned out to cost her life.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy described the murder as one that “shocked the conscience of Kerala”, adding that the central zone inspector general of police would lead the probe.

Social media activists condemned the state’s overall reaction to the murder of the Dalit girl, opining that the government would have acted with more seriousness if she was from the upper echelons of society.

“The distance from Perumbavur to our homes is not much”, says one trending line on social media. Another wrote: “Dear Jisha, The law you ate up burning midnight oil is not burning away your rapist”.