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Dalit law student rape & murder becomes political issue in Kerala

Last week's brutal rape and murder of an around 29-year-old Dalit woman who was studying law at Government Law College Ernakulam has galvanised politics in election-bound Kerala, as Chief Minister Oomen Chandy promised a thorough probe while the opposition alleged "inaction".

Jisha's dead body was found on 28 April at her home near a canal in Perumbavoor in Ernakulam by her mother who works as a casual labourer.

Her body was badly mutilated, including her intestines having been partially removed and injuries on her vagina, according to the police.

The likelihood that she had been sexually assaulted and the mutilation that her body bore has led many commentators on social and mainstream media to compare the case with that of Jyoti Singh 'Nirbhaya' who was gang-raped and brutalised on 16 December, 2012 in a moving bus in Delhi.

Perhaps sensing that it could lead to a political backlash, the state government has ordered a high level probe to be led by Kochi Range Inspector General of Police Mahipal Yadav.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters on Tuesday: "We have asked the probe to be led by a very senior official and nothing will be left to chance to bring the culprits to justice.

The State Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala is also closely watching the probe, said Chandy.

Women activists and the opposition CPI-M, however, said the handling of the case so far was proof of abject inaction.

"It has come to a stage that women are now no longer safe in their homes. The police here are not allowed to do their job and the state government is also not doing anything," said CPI-M politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan.

In the state capital women journalists took out a march demanding police act with speed in its investigation.

"The police appears to be soft and silent in the probe and there has been a violation of Justice Verma Commission guidelines in such cases. It's five days since the incident took place and nothing seems to be happening," said lawyer and women's rights activist Ginakumari.

The students' wing of CPI-M expressed impatience and anger over the alleged delay in investigation of the case; it took out a march to the police station near here demanding quick action.

The victim's mother said: "Our neighbours did not come to our help even after coming to know of the murder. We want the law to come to our aid to arrest those who have done this."

The victim's sister Deepa said the neighbours were unkind to them and trying to evict them from the place.

"They did not come to her rescue even while she was brutally assaulted," said Deepa.

With assembly polls to take place on 16 May, the Left opposition, led by CPI-M, is now determined to take this case up as an election issue to hit at the Chandy government.

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