India: Petty thief does star turn in Kerala Sr Abhaya murder case

Thiruvananthapuram: A petty thief who does not mind admitting to his little acts of infractions has emerged a star in Kerala after his key role in stoutly defending his witness statement in the nearly 29-year-old Sr Abhaya murder case.

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During the days in 1992 when Sr Abhaya was a novitiate nun at the St Pious X Convent in Kottayam, K. Raju was an odd-jobs man who went about some petty thefts, too, on the side to make a living.

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Raju, who goes by the name ‘Adakka’ Raju (Adakka is Malayalam for areca nut, as well as for trivial or small), was admittedly at the convent on the morning of the murder with the intention of some petty theft when he saw the two accused priests in the case there.

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Of the priests, Jose Puthrukayil was released from the case for want of evidence, while Thomas M. Kottoor was handed life imprisonment on Wednesday. The other accused in the case, Sr Sephy, who was a senior nun in the convent, also got life term for the murder of Sr Abhaya.

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“I used to smoke ganja (marijuana) in those days, and was not into [alchoholic] drinks like now,” Raju said in his unassuming style on Tuesday, a comment that went viral. But what earned him legions of fans was his unflinching stand for the murdered nun, without being influenced by financially-enticing offers to change his submission.

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‘Justice’

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“My child has got justice. I am saying this as her father,” Raju said on hearing the guilty sentence handed out to Kottoor and Sephy. Sr Abhaya’s parents died in 2016, thirsting for justice for their murdered teenage daughter till their end.

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‘A principled thief’ went one comment on social media. Another said, ‘It turns out that those who were supposedly doing God’s work were doing criminal deeds and a petty thief was doing God’s work’.

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“Like the thief on a cross alongside Jesus Christ, this thief will also be in paradise,” commented another on social media.

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Raju continues to live in a colony of small houses in Kottayam on a 3-cent plot, having spurned all financial offers to change the submission he gave as witness despite being tortured by police to give false witness.

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There were other stars in the case, too, like activist Joemon Puthepurackal who persevered with the case, the CBI superintendent of police Nandakumar Nair who led the investigation, and a former deputy superintendent of the CBI, Varghese P. Thomas, who took voluntary retirement with 10 years of his career left, unwilling to budge to pressure from his seniors to do the unlawful.

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‘Sr Abhaya and Raju are saints, and you know who the sinners are’ said yet another social media post. And there were trolls, too, like one saying “Saint Adakka Raju, pray for us”.

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