Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Will Sonia provide justice to this daughter?

India lost a ‘beloved’ daughter. That was how grief-stricken Sonia Gandhi, the leading lady of India’s ruling Congress reacted to the death of the Delhi gangrape victim. Her televised speech to the entire nation on that occasion still reverberates in every Indian’s ears. How can anyone forget her broken voice and the promise she made that day -“Nation’s beloved daughter will get justice.”

Yet another girl, a living victim of 42 days of continuous rape that involved men from all walks of life – from rickshaw driver to politician –expects a similar assurance from Sonia. The safety measures announced by the government for women after the brutal Delhi gangrape-murder were more or less capital-oriented. As a consolation to other victims of sexual abuses, the Supreme Court took up all the pending abuse cases and ordered the setting up of fasttrack courts to deal with them.

One among thousands of such cases was the sensational Suryanelli sex scandal case that has hogged the headlines in Kerala since 1996. The top court was shocked to see the Kerala high court’s judgment that acquitted all the 35 accused and reduced the life term given to the lone convict to five years. The girl was a minor at the time of the incident. But the high court was of the opinion that the girl willingly had physical relations with all the accused and even refused to escape from her perpetrators.

What made the court to give such an inhumane verdict was the alleged involvement of then central minister PJ Kurien, who is now the deputy chairperson of the upper house of Parliament. In the eyes of the two-member high court bench, a senior leader of Kurien’s stature was above rape allegations and it found fault with the girl, alluding to her as a child prostitute in the judgment.

Though the girl told the investigators that the Congress leader was among the rapists, they did not believe her statement and deprived her of the right to identify him in person. Eventually, the Supreme Court itself absolved Kurien of her allegation, for lack of evidence, when the law stipulates a statement by a victim is necessary in such cases to book a culprit.

Here a sheer violation of human rights happened, and constitutional rights that provide equality to all citizens, irrespective of caste, religion and gender, are being misused by the authorities. The girl was victimised just because Kurien was involved in the case. This unholy nexus between the judiciary and the executive is not a new thing in India. Often loopholes in the criminal procedure system and law help the guilty more than the victims in many sexual abuse cases when it takes a political colour.
As in the Delhi rape case, this girl’s search for justice too ended with Sonia Gandhi. The opposition parties, Bharatiya Janata Party and Leftists, have already made calls for Kurien’s removal. When colleagues heap vocal support on Kurien and verbal assaults on the girl on a daily basis, will Sonia ask the Kerala government to abide by the Supreme Court verdict to see the chances of re-opening the case? If Sonia refuses to remove him from the key position and denies the girl a chance to prove before the world that the lawmaker has humiliated and sexually abused her at a tender age, it will be a blot on Sonia’s pro-woman stand.

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