People's Democracy

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


No. 48

December 01, 2013






Jathas Highlight Womenís Unnatural Death


B Madhava


A HUGE mass rally, held on November 26, 2013 in front of the deputy commissioner's office of Mangalore marked the culmination of two padayatras which had started on November 21 from Belthangady and Sullia and covered every part of the Dakshina Kannada district. These jathas were organised by the CPI(M) district committee to demand that the government of Karnataka must entrust all the cases recorded as unnatural deaths --- numbering over 450 --- over a period of more than three decades in Dharmasthala and Ujire villages of Dakshin Kannada district to the CBI for investigation. These cases must also include the one-year old case of rape and murder of Soujanya, the CPI(M) insisted.


The jatha which started from the banks of river Nethravathi in Belthangady was inaugurated by senior CPI(M) leader U B Lokayya and led by B M Bhat and K Yadava Shetty, members of the CPI(M) district secretariat. The other jatha which started from Sullia was inaugurated by Siddabasava Kabirananda Mahaswamy of Gulbarga Singarahalli Marula Shankara Devara Gurupeeta and led by CPI(M) district secretariat members Vasantha Achari and Sunil Kumar Bajal. The inaugural function was presided over by CPI(M) state secretariat member K R Sriyan.


In the face of a statewide protest unleashed by the CPI(M) and spontaneously joined by vast sections of the people, the state government announced that the Soujanya issue would be entrusted to the CBI. By then, more than 13 months had elapsed since the rape and murder of Soujanya and all the traceable evidence including two eye witnesses has been eliminated. One Ravi Poojary, said to be an eye witness in the Soujanya case, died under mysterious circumstances and the case was treated as suicide. Very recently, then, one Dinesh Gowda who was active in the protests   to demand a CBI probe, was killed by a vehicle dashing against   him and it was treated as an accident. A domestic servant of one of the accused died under suspicious circumstances.


Vinaya Kumar Sorake, a minister of the state government, openly declared at a public meeting in Dharmasthala that the government would not allow this case to be treated as one of rape and murder. This highlighted the utter shamelessness of the minister. Though the state government has already announced its decision to entrust the Soujanya case to CBI, surprisingly the said minister continues in his position and may well try to influence the investigation.


This being the situation, the CPI(M) state committee has declared that justice to Soujanya would be ensured only if all the cases of unnatural deaths which occurred in Dharmasthala and Ujire villages during the last three decades, including those of Padmalatha and Vedavalli, were handed over to the CBI for investigation. The number of cases closed by the police as unnatural deaths in these two villages during the last two decades comes to a total of more than 450, according to information collected by some organisations. Therefore the two jathas demanded that, along with the investigation into the rape and murder of Soujanya already handed over to the CBI, all the cases of unnatural deaths in the last three decades in these two villages should also be reopened and handed over to the CBI. This demand caught the imagination of the people in the district who braved all threats and welcomed the jathas everywhere in large numbers.


Addressing the huge protest rally before the deputy commissioner's office, CPI(M) Central Committee member and leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia, pointed out that the right to Life is a fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution. But the unnatural deaths of more than 450 persons in Dharmasthala over the last three decades or more are nothing but a clear violation of this fundamental right. It is therefore not an issue confined to the Dakshina Kannada district or Karnataka state. It is definitely a national issue and he declared that he would raise it in Lok Sabha.


At the same time, there are widespread complaints of grabbing of the lands belonging to poor backward and dalit families by powerful forces in Dharmasthala. It is said that many of the persons who died an unnatural death were related to the persons who resisted the land grabbing. Basudeb Acharia therefore demanded that all the cases of land grab in Dharmasthala must also be entrusted to the CBI. 


CPI(M) Central Committee member and AIDWA leader Vasuki said it was strange that all these vices were being perpetrated in a place called the "seat of dharma," in the land of a great social reformer, Basavanna, who propagated "kalabeda, kolabeda, husia nudialubeda" (donít steal, donít kill, donít tell lies)! She said that in order to ensure an unhindered investigation, it should be done under the aegis of the Supreme Court. She said the police officers responsible for distorting the process of investigation should be punished. It is strange that political parties like the Congress, BJP and JD(S) are keeping mum on this serious issue, she pointed out.


Addressing the gathering, CPI(M) state secretary G V Srirama Reddy asked the chief minister to clarify the government's stand in the context of the minister Vinaya Kumar Sorakeís open support to Soujanyaís killers. He declared that the struggles would continue till the government conceded the demands of the people. 


S Shankarappa, an eminent lawyer of Karnataka, pointed out the legal contradictions in the reports submitted by the COD and CID.


The meeting was presided over by CPI(M) district secretary B Madhava and attended among others by state secretariat members K R Sriyan and K Shankar, state committee members J Balakrishna Shetty, Vasantha Achary and Udupi Balakrishna Shetty, and district secretariat members Yadava Shetty, U B Lokayya, B M Bhat, Krishnappa Salian, Sunil Kumar Bajal and writer Athrady Amritha Shetty. The parents of Soujanya, Chandappa Gowda and Kusumavathi were also present on the dais.


At the outset, B M Bhat and Vasanth Achary, leaders of the two jathas, narrated their experiences en route.