People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 06

February 10, 2013



Women Protest Govt Stand, Demand Kurien’s Arrest

 N S Sajith


ON February 6, 2013, women’s organisations in Kerala organised huge protest marches in Thiruvananthapuram to demand the arrest of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien who is alleged to be involved in the infamous Suryanelly gang rape case which occurred 17 years back. Activists of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) gate-crashed into the Kerala legislative assembly, whereafter the police arrested them. AIDWA leaders P K Srimati, Dr T N Seema (MP), K K Lathika (MLA), Aysha Potti (MLA) and K S Saleekha (MLA) led this protest march.


On the other hand, the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) also organised a huge protest march in front of the state secretariat. It took place under the leadership of E S Bijimol (MLA) who was injured in a scuffle with the police.


These marches also aimed to register protest against the state government’s decision not to hold a reinvestigation into the Suryanelly gang rape case.Significantly, while the chief minister Oommen Chandy and home minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan are adamant on the stand of not holding a reinvestigation, Rajan, a BJP leader and a witness in the case who had earlier given a statement substantiating the alibi proffered by Kurien, has now told the media that his earlier statement was wrong.


In the midst of such mounting protest, the state assembly had to be adjourned on the day. In a response to opposition leader V S Achuhthanandan’s submission demanding a reinvestigation in the Suryanelli case, the chief minister and the home minister made the plea that the government would taken action after seeking legal advice. This statement immediately incensed the opposition members. The protest then raised by the opposition resulted in the adjournment of the day’s sitting. Leaders from the opposition benches also raised the issue of police attack against the women MLAs those who were protesting against the government’s stand on the Surayanelli case.




The preceding developments ran like this. Within a day after the Supreme Court quashed the Kerala High Court’s judgement which exonerated 35 of the accused in the infamous and sensational Suryanelli sex scandal, the victim affirmed once again on February 1, 2013 that senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien was indeed one among the rapists. On January 31, a special bench of the apex court, comprising Justice A K Patnaik and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra, formed to try the rape cases in the backdrop of the Delhi gang rape incident, had directed the Kerala High Court to hold a fresh trial in this 17 years old case and to give its verdict within six months. The apex court also termed the High Court verdict as surprising. The accused were told to seek fresh bail and surrender within three weeks.


The case, which was abominably weakened by the UDF governments in the past, in now set to create fresh ripples in Kerala politics as the victim has again accused P J Kurien of involvement in the crime. Even though the victim had accused Kurien and others of involvement in the rape crime 17 years ago, the interference of the UDF governments at various stages had led to the accused persons getting exonerated.


On February 1, the victim repeatedly informed the media about the cruelties perpetrated by more than 40 accused including P J Kurien. “I stick to my statement against Kurian, which was made in the court of the first class judicial magistrate in Peermedu,” she said. Recently the victim also wrote a letter to her advocate inquiring the possibility of legal action against Kurien. The Supreme Court’s order came only two days after she wrote this letter.


In this particular case, the victim, who was then 16 years old, had eloped in 1996 with her boy friend, a private bus conductor, but then fell into the clutches of some people who were running a sex racket. However, this was a racket in which some leaders of the Congress and the Kerala Congress in Idukki and Kottayam districts were involved and who patronised the racket. The girl was then sexually abused and raped for 40 days at a stretch. At that time too, the victim had categorically said that she was sexually abused by Kurien in the Kumali guest house in Idukki district. Apart from Kurien, there were 42 other accused in the crime, including Jacob Stephen, District Congress Committee (DCC) secretary and a district panchayat member, and Jose


Nedumthakidi, a leader of the Kerala Congress. However, on January 20, 2000, the Kerala High Court acquitted 35 of the accused, giving them the benefit of doubt. Later, Kurien was acquitted by the Supreme Court on the basis of evidence of alibi.


But the intervention of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) in the legal battle made a huge impact on the proceedings in this case in the Supreme Court. The advocate of the AIDWA’s Kerala unit pleaded in the apex court after having filed there a petition questioning the High Court’s verdict. As it was, the petition kept pending in the Supreme Court for the last 12 years.




On February 2, 2013, however, though not very surprisingly, Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala, president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, came forward to protect the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien who stands alleged of involvement in the sensational Suryanelly gang rape case. Oommen Chandy bluntly ruled out a re-investigation into the Suryanelli gangrape case, saying the top courts had already cleared the allegations raised against P J Kurien. Ramesh Chennithala said that his party would wholeheartedly protect Kurian against the allegations.


There was nothing new in the allegation levelled by the victim but it had been investigated and cleared by courts including the Supreme Court, Chandy told reporters.

Terming the allegation against Kurien as "unfortunate," the chief minister said the media was highlighting the victim's statement as something new, adding that she had levelled this same allegation 17 years ago and it had been found to be not true by three investigation teams. He further said that some people were trying to trigger a controversy over a matter which had been raised 17 years ago.


It is to be noted that on January 29, 2013 the victim had sent a letter to her advocate in the Supreme Court, asking him to explore the possibility of a review of the apex court’s order quashing all charges against Kurien.


 Meanwhile, a member of the special investigation team (SIT) that had probed the case in 1996 has said Kurien's itinerary on the day when she alleged that she was sexually exploited was not fully investigated.


K K Joshua, a member of the SIT, has claimed that the SIT chief Siby Mathews had not made any attempt to collect the itinerary details of Kurien, who was then a union minister but travelled without escort between 5 p m and 10.30 p m.


Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan has demanded that P J Kurein must resign as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman in view of the victim's statement  that she stood by her complaint that he was among those who had molested her in 1996.