by LAUREN CODLING
THE mother of the late Bollywood actress, Jiah Khan, said she will continue to fight to “bring respect back” to her daughter, as the trial about her death is due to begin next week in Mumbai.
Jiah Khan, 25, was found dead in the spare bedroom of her Mumbai apartment in June 2013.
Actor Sooraj Pancholi, 27, has been charged with abetment of her suicide. It is understood the pair were in a relationship for nine months prior to her death.
Jiah’s mother, Rabbiya Khan, was the first to find her daughter’s body in the suspected suicide and has consistently said that she did not kill herself.
“I, as a mother, know that this is a murder,” Khan told Eastern Eye in London last week. “The forensics findings, the evidence and the circumstances, everything points to murder. It is [the court’s] duty to find out who did it.”
She is due to give evidence in court when the hearing starts.
At the time of her death, Jiah had starred in three major films, including one featuring Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.
In an apparent six-page suicide note discovered in her diary, the actress allegedly referred to Pancholi and apparently blamed him for cheating on her and forcing her to abort their baby.
It said: “Your life was about partying and women. Mine was you and my work. If I stay here, I will crave you and miss you.”
Since Jiah’s death, Khan has met various forensic doctors who she claims have said they believe the evidence points to a staged suicide.
Key evidence went missing at the scene of the crime, including the tracksuit Jiah was last seen wearing and the dupatta (scarf) that had been used as a noose.
Khan said she finds it “frustrating” that no murder charges have been brought against Pancholi.
“Jiah is not somebody who would go and jump into a well, just because someone told her to,” Khan said. “The frustration is that intelligent people ignore [the evidence] and they stare at my face and pretend.”
Khan added she had “great difficultly” persuading the session court judge in Mumbai that all the evidence should be taken seriously.
According to her, the judge has only partially accepted evidence, choosing to disregard the missing messages and call logs from Jiah’s phone and the missing ligature.
“If you are a fact finder, you could see an ant going off with some evidence and you would want to catch it. You don’t stare at it; you want to catch it and get to the root of it. But that is not happening, so it is very frustrating,” she said.
It has taken almost five years for the case to finally come to court. Khan said the family, including her other daughters Kavita and Karishma, were in a state of denial and shock for the first two years after Jiah’s passing.
Since then, the highs and lows have been “extreme”, she said.
“We still cry and miss her and want to know exactly what conspired, what happened and what exactly [Jiah] saw that night in that bungalow?” Khan said.
Jiah and her two sisters were extremely close, their mother said.
The loss has devastated them, but they continue to “face the world”.
“They miss their sister, they pray for her and light a candle daily,” she said.
“They face the world with bravery – I think they are braver than I am. Before I die, I have to award my daughters for being so brave.”
However, according to Khan, her two daughters are not on the witness list for the upcoming trial.
Talking about her “out-going, talented” daughter, Khan remembers Jiah as a person who shared everything, was excited when new things were happening in her life and who loved home.
“She just wanted to be busy all the time. That is what Jiah was. Coming home in the evening, getting ready and going out, preparing and going for spa treatments. That is the kind of lifestyle she wanted,” Khan recalled.
As the trial approaches, Khan hopes to continue to fight for justice for Jiah. She claims that she is not fighting as an act of revenge but just wants answers to understand what happened to her “beautiful, innocent” daughter.
“I am not on a witch hunt – it’s the court’s duty to find out, not fool people with their lies,” she said. “Why are they hiding the truth? Do they know who killed my child?”
She went on: “[Jiah] worked hard. She was an achiever, so I want to give that respect back to her. I am not revengeful, and I don’t have hatred or anything like that. I just want to bring that respect to my girl who deserves it.”
Pancholi has pleaded not guilty to the charges.