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|by Anita Joseph Koshy|
The Suryanelli case is an excellent example of how dangerous political vendetta can be. It just goes to show how something as serious as rape can be turned into a score settling exercise. Worse, it just goes to show how women in India, while crying hoarse for their empowerment, emancipation and safety, are actually undermining their own credibility and worth.
As a woman, a journalist and someone who was as young (or old) as the victim herself when the scandal unfolded, I cannot but see the whole case as a massive cover-up, a score settling exercise and an unfortunate media trial. And as a proud Indian, I can only view with alarm, the ease with which any woman can accuse a man of laying hands on her, and bring about his physical and mental downfall.
What stands out as irregular to me, is this: Why 17 years? Why did it take 17 years for the so called witnesses and perpetrators to come out with evidence to the contrary? What if the Supreme Court had not come out with its latest order against the 35 accused? Would they have continued keeping quiet?
I’m sure we all agree that a girl who has been subject to a horrific gang rape over a period of several days is not in a position to correctly recognize anything or anyone, since the trauma itself is too great for her. For such a person to identify 35 of her rapists correctly, leave out PJ Kurien, who was then a central minister and then to recognize him from a newspaper photograph just three days prior to his( Kurien) filing nominations to the Lok Sabha, seems remarkable, to say the least.
Then again, she claims that a ‘khader clad fat man called Bhaji who she recognizes as Kurien’ raped her. Now, if the public choses to believe Dharmarajan, the prime accused after 17 years, he makes a point that Bhaji is not Kurien, but someone else. So, what about the girl’s testimony? Who then is the Khader clad Bhaji that she recognized as Kurien? If as Dharmarajan says, Kurian was there at the scene and he is not Bhaji, then who is the Khader clad Bhaji that the girl is talking about?
To me it seems as if all the media and the general public cares about is the mental and physical state of the girl. Because she was raped, whatever she says must be true. And because, in her traumatized state of mind she has identified Kurien, it must be true. Then again, because the witnesses, after so many years, have opted for a complete volte face and pointed fingers at Kurien, it must of course be true.”What is not true is that Kurien, a Central minister at the time, could not have gone all the way to the Kumali guest house without being recognized by the locals. What is also not true is that there is solid evidence of calls made by Kurien till 5 pm on that fateful day, from Tiruvalla, and then again at 10.20 pm from his residence in Mallappally, that night. From 5 pm to 10.20 pm is a gap of 5 hours and twenty minutes. For Kurien to have travelled from Tiruvalla to Kumali, a distance of 120 kilometres, at 5 pm, raped the girl at 7 pm (as per the girl’s original private complaint filed in the court), and come back by 10.20 in time to make a phone call is impossible.
Despite this, of course, the rape victim must be believed. And what the witnesses say today must be swallowed whole, notwithstanding the fact that they testified to the veracity of their statements 17 years ago. And so Kurien must be punished.
While it fills me with pride that Malayalees everywhere have chosen to take up cudgels for the case and demand that the guilty be punished, it fills me with disgust that they say so without being completely in possession of the facts.
They allege, firstly, that Mr Sukumaran Nair, whom PJ Kurien had gone to meet at the time, was a mere clerk at the NSS office, and not anyone that a Central Minister would want to visit. It would do them well to remember that Nair was the General Secretary of the National Democratic Party (NDP), a UDF ally at the time, as well as Assistant General Secretary of the NSS. Also that as a Central minister, Kurien chose to call on the leadership of the NSS, not on any particular individual.
The justice conscious Indian public also says Kurien avoided all investigations and trial in the case. Does it even occur to them that when a minister of his rank is accused in a case like this, he will subject to the most intense scrutiny and investigation? Does this ‘justice’ acknowledge the fact that having someone’s movements scrutinized by the second, having their private phone calls and letters scanned and publicized, and being personally subject to the most embarrassing of questions and conclusions, can be as torturous and traumatizing as rape?
Again, I would like to point out that Kurien did not dispense with personal security himself. If I remember correctly, it was the policy of the Antony Government at the time to provide security only when a minister has an official government function, a decision taken as part of cost cutting measures. And Kurien’s NSS visit was not an official government ‘event’.
I may be a media person, but I am never in favour of the media thwarting facts to hike their TRP ratings. Recently, a Malayalam channel misinterpreted the statement of Mr Siby Mathews who was the chief investigating officer in the case, just to put forward a point. Where Siby Mathews had said “If the authorities are unhappy with the way I have investigated the (Suryanelli) case, let them investigate again,” the duty conscious anchor interpreted it to say: “Siby Mathews says the case could be investigated again.” This I would say is media trial at its worst, something to be abhorred.
While the media, the general public and the various women’s groups are having their share of fun and demanding that justice prevail, it would serve them well to realize that often, justice is not only for the victim, it is also for the accused. And that even the accused is entitled to demand that it prevails. As it MUST and WILL, in this case.
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