KOCHI: On October 22, Kerala woke up to a gruesome murder. Panoor-native Vishnupriya, 23, was murdered at her home at noon by her ex-boyfriend Shyamjith, 25. He had entered her home with a hammer, screwdriver, knives, chilli powder and a knife sharpener, too. Vishnupriya’s throat was slit and her body had 18 stab wounds.
Just two days ago, yet another shocker jolted Malayalis: 23-year-old Greeshma of Parassala allegedly murdered her boyfriend Sharon Raj by offering him a herbal tonic mixed with pesticide. Reports alleged Greeshma wanted to break up with Sharon and proceed with another wedding alliance proposal. She, however, was worried about how he would react. He allegedly blackmailed her with their private photos on his mobile phone.
Both these cases point to relationships gone awry. “I fail to understand how you can love someone and then plot their murder,” says Tessa Sarah Kuriakose, a student leader at UC College, Aluva.
“I don’t know much about the murder of Sharon. The case is going on and there are media reports of astrology, secret marriage, involvement of family, etc. Whatever be the reason, murder cannot be justified.”
The way society responds to such murders is equally deplorable, she adds. “In Vishnupriya’s case, many people on social media justified her murder. Some said she deserved it, as she had dumped him — what misogynists call ‘theppu’ these days. We hardly see the word used the other way around. This reluctance to accept break up is rampant.”
Though people are not victim-blaming Sharon, his murder has become the subject of jokes and memes. “Social media is filled with sexist jokes,” says Tessa. “Memes and skits show men being scared of drinking juice, tea, etc., made by their wives or girlfriends. Even Thiruvananthapuram Mayor Arya Rajendran S was targeted with indirect, derogatory ‘trolling’ by her alleged ex-boyfriend. He posted on Instagram that he had ‘fortunately not drunk any juice during those days’.”
Dr Veena J S, assistant professor at a private college, says love-turned-rage incidents seem to be increasing nowadays. “Be it men or women, some find it difficult to handle rejection in romantic relationships,” she says.
“Caught in a fit of rage, some people forget that their decisions and actions would affect their lives; they forget there will be legal consequences.” In Greeshma’s case, it was probably the fear of Sharon’s reaction to rejection that made her take another life. “She didn’t consider the consequences. People with such a clouded mentality exist in our society, and that segment needs attention.”
Veena believes violence is something inbuilt in every human. “However, coupled with personality disorder, it could manifest into action in some,” she says.“Also, we tend to ignore such antisocial traits. Society has given a banner to men that they are more aggressive. Just yesterday, I saw a man hitting his wife on the road. No one questioned him.
When we ignore or trivialise such instances, we fail as a society. Be it a man or woman, they can be affected by personality disorders. Even people functioning well in professional spaces might have such traits. We should ensure healthy intervention when such traits are noted in childhood itself.”
‘Lack of inclusive education’
Actor Jolly Chirayath pins the blame on the educational system. “Our educational system essentially is based on religions,” she says. “And that comes with the shades of moral policing. Girls and boys cannot sit together; they go to separate schools. And these institutions promote inherently patriarchal ideas of relationships and marriages. The idea that a woman should have only one partner is something that’s drilled in from childhood.”
Most romantic relationships, Jolly adds, are considered as ownership. “The man owns the woman or vice versa. That’s when the problem arises,” she says. “That mindset prevents amicable break-ups.”
The school education system has to change, insists Jolly. “Societal misconceptions should be dispelled,” she says. “If not, incidents of such crimes will only rise.”
‘Cannot ignore casteism’
Dalit rights activist Prof Rekha Raj adds that the casteist endogamic marriage practice also aids in these. “Every romantic relationship starts with the idea of marriage. But caste still plays a huge role when it comes to marriage in our society,” she says.
“We blame parents for insisting on arranged marriages; the root cause is caste. That is one reason why we learn from a young age that love is something that should be kept hidden.” Rekha adds some people hush-up relationships as if they’re a “criminal activity”. “Along with casteism, it also restricts people, especially women, from exploring their sexualities,” she says. “That is why some victim-shamed Vishnupriya,” she adds.
In the Sharon murder case, Rekha terms the statements by the police as problematic. “Greeshma is a rank holder — that’s what the police said,” she says. “Does that negate her crime? How does it matter? Was Sharon a rank holder? If he was not, does that justify his murder? Such statements appear because one of them belongs to a marginalised caste. I don’t have to say who.”
Chuck heteronormative ideas
Besides violence, Rekha points out, bad relationships also give rise to suicides. “Many people fail to consider young love as something beautiful or freeing. Instead, it becomes a miniature version of marriage with constraints,” she says.
“One becomes dependent on the other, or gains control of the partner’s life. Also, one’s world becomes limited to that one person. So, suddenly, when one person moves on, or a ‘no’ is said, the other loses control — resulting in depression, suicide, murder, etc.”
Rekha stresses that it is high time “we changed our heteronormative ideas”. “We try out various choices to buy just a pair of jeans, isn’t it? Now, how can you decide at one go, who your life-long partner would be?”
‘WOMEN IN LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS AT HIGHER RISK’
C H Nagaraju, Kochi City Police Commissioner says: “Isuues such as possessiveness, lack of trust, cheating, power games between partners, financial dependence, excessive emotional dependence, etc., are some of the factors for violence within relationships. I have seen cases where one partner behaves violently if the other has no one to fall back upon, especially family. In some cases, disillusionment over the character of one’s partner also leads to an abnormal response — even doing away with that person.
“Mostly women in live-in relationships are at a higher risk than married couples due to the lack of an organised social support system. There are no witnesses to their bonding. Hence, no responsibility on the part of family, relatives or friends. It’s a choice by both partners based on love and some other factors. When these ‘other factors’ take precedence, the risk increases.”
Lack of social awareness is one of the main reasons for such incidents. The perpetrators don’t care about consequences. Recently, I came across a statement from one such offender who killed his lover. He said he is not bothered about going to jail as he may restart his life after serving time, but the girl who refused his love is no more in the world to enjoy her life. How can this be real love?
-Nandan V P, digital content creator
Love is considered a selfless feeling. One must respect their partner as a human being. When the girl or boy says ‘No’, the other should move on. But for some, it is a matter of ego. People should realise that getting heartbroken or the end of their relationship is not the end of life. Love is only one part of our life.
-Saipriya P, engineering student
It’s the responsibility of a person who has reached puberty to know where to draw the lines and safeguard their privacy. We should never let anyone document us in private. If a person forces the other to do so, it is harassment.
-Muhammed Asif Cherachen, law student