Suryanelli gangrape case: Kurien not to be made an accused, rules court #Vaw


Thiruvananthapuram: In a major relief to PJ Kurien and a setback for the Suryanelli gangrape survivor, a Session Court ruled on Saturday that the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman will not be made an accused in the nearly two decade-old case. The court rejected the survivor’s plea based on prime accused Dharmarajan’s affidavit stating he never took Kurien to the guest house, where the girl was lodged.

Dharmarajan, in the affidavit, had also said that an old TV interview, in which he claimed Kurien’s involvement in the crime, was given under the influence of alcohol. A few days after his interview to a channel, Dharmarajan was arrested from Karnataka after absconding for several years by jumping bail.

Sessions Judge Abraham Mathew in his Saturday’s order held that the survivor’s plea for inclusion of Kurien in the sex scandal case was not maintainable. The girl, hailing from Suryanelli in Idukki district of Kerala, was abducted in January 1996 and was transported to various places in the state and sexually exploited by different persons.

Kurien not an accused in Suryanelli gangrape case: CourtThe Sessions Court in its order held that the survivor’s plea for inclusion of Kurien in the case was not maintainable.

The survivor had moved the court against Kurien based on the ‘revelation’ of the sole convict in the case Dharmarajan, who had claimed in an interview a few months back that he had taken Kurien in a car to a guest house at Kumily where the girl was lodged.

Dharmarajan had later retracted the claim in the court through an affidavit stating he had never met Kurien and he was in an inebriated state when he made the charge. The 1996 case came into focus recently after the Supreme Court invalidated the Kerala High Court‘s verdict acquitting 35 accused in the case.

(With Additional Inputs From agencies )

 

Sole convict in Suryanelli rape case retracts charge against PJ Kurien #WTFnews Timing ?


PTI  THODUPUZHA, KERALA, MAY 29, 2013 | UPDATED 18:18 IST
PJ Kurien
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien
In yet another twist to the nearly two-decade-oldSuryanelli sex scandal, the lone convict in the case, Dharmarajan on Wednesday retracted his allegation that Congress leader and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien was involved in the case.In an affidavit filed through his lawyer in the Sessions Court at Thodupuzha in Idukki district, Dharmarajan said he made the allegation as the reporter of a Malayalam TV channel barraged him with questions while he was hiding in a place near Mysore after jumping bail.

Dharmarajan, who surrendered in February last after absconding for several years, said he was not familiar with Kurien and he had seen his pictures only in media.

Withdrawing his claim that he had taken Kurien in his car to a guest house in Kumali where the victim was lodged, Dharmarajan said in fact he did not even have a car of his own.

The affidavit was submitted in a private petition filed by the victim seeking legal action against Kurien in the light of Dharmarajan’s “revelation.”

Dharmarajan dropped a bombshell in February claiming in a television interview that Kurien was present at the guest house where the victim was exploited and that he (Dharmarajan) was under pressure from the investigators to refrain from mentioning the Congress leader’s name.

A lawyer by profession, Dharmarajan was the only accused convicted by the Kerala High Court in 2005 while it cleared 34 others earlier held guilty by a special court that conducted trial in the case in the late 1990s.

After serving a brief jail term, Dharmarajan was freed on bail but never returned to prison and his whereabouts were unknown till he resurfaced in February, after the case took a new turn with the Supreme Court asking the Kerala High Court to conduct a re-trial.

The sex scandal took place at Suryanelli in Idukki district January 1996. A 16-year-old was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor and was later confined and sexually assaulted for 45 days by 42

 

Women Deliver unaware of charges against Kurien, is that Enough ? #Vaw #Rape


AARTI DHAR, The Hindu

P J Kurien. File photo
The HinduP J Kurien. File photo

“Had we known of the controversy, we would not have permitted PJ Kurien to speak at the side event,” say the organisers of Women Deliver conference

With twitterati in India launching a tirade against Rajya Sabha P.J.Kurien’s presence at an international conference on women underway here, the organisers of Women Deliver on Wednesday said they were unaware of charges against him.

In a statement issued here, Women Deliver said it took the issues of violence against women and rape very seriously.

We were unaware that Indian Parliamentarian PJ Kurien is facing allegations of rape. While we cannot comment on the specific allegations, had we known of the controversy, we would not have permitted PJ Kurian to speak at the side event. Addressing violence against women is central to our mission as an organization and one of the focus areas of this global conference,” the statement said.

Mr Kurien, who is facing serious charges of rape, is also chairperson of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, that had invited him to speak at the Global MPs Conference, held as a side event at Women Deliver conference.

As the word on Mr Kurien’s participation spread, social media overflowed with condemnations. Tweeted Vidyut: massive anger over women’s rights situation, sweet promises by Sonia/sarkar, half hearted committee/law passed, then Kurien at Women Deliver”

Women’s activists lost no time in writing to UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister demanding Mr Kurien’s removal as chairperson of Rajya sabha.

Mr Kurien’s case involves gang rape of a minor girl in Suryanelli in Kerala. While the victim has alleged that she was raped by 42 men over 40 days and one of them was Mr Kurien. In 2005, the Kerala High Court tried 35 men but Mr Kurien was not among them- and acquitted 34. This order was recently set aside by the Supreme Court following which there have been demands of Mr Kurien’s removal as chairperson of Rajya Sabha.

 

P J Kurien , rape accused a speaker in Women Deliver Conference, Feminists Protest #Vaw #WD2013


By- Rukmini Sen, at http://hillele.org/

In a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi, Feminists and women activists accross India have expressed their shock that PJ Kurien has been invited as a lead speaker to the third Global Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from May 28- May 30th 2013. Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker P J Kurien is an accused in the Suryanelli Rape Case and GWD Conference is one of the largest global event of the decade to focus on the health and empowerment of girls and women.

In this letter written and signed by some senior feminists of the country it is stated that “In 1996, in the state of Kerala, a 16-year-old girl was abducted and brutally gang-raped by 42 men over a 40 day period. She was tied up, and transported place to place throughout the state, and raped by various men at various points. When she was finally dumped by the rapists and taken to the hospital the doctors said her groin and private areas were so savaged, and she had bled so much that a few more days and she would be dead!”. The victim, however, found courage and named and identified her rapists. One of them was P J Kurien, who she recognized and identified from a photograph. On September 06, 2000, a special court had found 35 of the men involved guilty and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for varying terms.

The Kerala High Court, however overturned this ruling. It acquitted all 35 convicted rapists and found only one of them guilty of crimes related to the sex trade and sentenced him to a 5- year jail term and a fine of Rs 50,000. “The reason for the acquittal was political pull, especially that of P.J. Kurien, who was a Union Minister and a member of the ruling Congress party”.

In fact, even the witness on whose statement Kurien was later acquitted, has recently admitted that he had actually testified to seeing Kurien in the guest house, around the time the victim was raped there. According to him, the police officer in charge had changed his statement to protect Kurien, with bribes having been given to buy his silence! Furthermore, the only man convicted in the case has also testified that Kurien was in the
guest house at the time of the rape. The testimony comes in spite of pressure being applied by the investigating officer on people not to testify against Kurien! Despite this, the government has refused to remove Kurien from office and re-try his case with the new evidence emerging against him.

Meanwhile, the rape survivor and her family have had to move houses constantly, and continue to be ostracized by society, while facing harassment from various quarters. The harassment increased because the survivor refused to retract Kurien’s name from the list of men who had raped her!

The video top is to understand how the rape survivor and her family have been further victimized over the years

The Feminist groups across the country have condemned the Government of India’s decision to permit PJ Kurien who is a rape accused to leave the country when there is a case against him in order to represent the Indian government at an international conference which is focused on women and girls health issues.

Feminist groups across the country have demanded that Women Deliver should not allow P J Kurien to speak or participate in any of the meetings or platform in the conference. Some of the leading feminists of the country have expressed surprise that “they do not check the credentials of dignitaries invited on a such a prestigious International Forum on the issues of Womens Health”. Women activists of the country have insisted that for future the conference organisers should check if delegates have a background in the subject matter of the conference, in the course of which they would also discover their misdeeds.

Feminists across the country have demanded that Kurien immediately vacates his position of Chairman of Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and development

They have further demanded UNFPA which has sessions wherein ministers, parliamentarians and senior government officials will be speaking on women’s reproductive health and how they can be

LINK TO PETITION HERE- http://kractivist.wordpress.com/petition-stop-p-j-kurien-rape-accused-in-women-deliver-conference-wd2013-wdlive/

Kerala – Environmental Activist is labelled “anti-national and terrorist” #WTF


 ‘Industry-politician nexus is trying to eliminate us’

Author(s): M Suchitra, downtoearth
Issue Date: Apr 24, 2013

Purushan Eloor is an environmental activist and research coordinator with Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithy (PMVS), which has been fighting against industrial pollution in the Periyar river, the lifeline of central Kerala. The river is alarmingly polluted by about 280 chemical factories located at Eloor-Edayar industrial estate, the largest industrial cluster in the state.

Purushan was member of the Local Area Environment Committee constituted in 2004 by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes, the Environment Working Group of Kerala State Planning Board and the Endosulfan Technical Cell of the Kerala government. Besides, PMVS is an accredited member of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board. But for the past one year, Purushan has been spending most of his time and energy in courts and police stations. He is facing investigations by the crime branch, special branch and the local police for “anti-national and terrorist” activities. Purushan spoke to M Suchitra about how industries and politicians conspire to eliminate environment activists in the locality and how factories continue to pollute the river with impunity. Some excerpts:

Purushan Eloor Purushan EloorWhy are police agencies investigating you and your organisation?

The state government ordered the probe. It is based on a complaint given by the Standing Council of Trade Unions to the chief minister.

What is this Standing Council of Trade Unions?

It is a confederation of prominent trade unions such as CITU, AITUC, INTUC and BMS. The patrons of the council include two state ministers. Its executive and non-executive office-bearers include influential politicians and members of Parliament and the Assembly. The council was originally formed to act as a mediator between industries and the government for the smooth functioning of factories by ensuring adequate power availability.

What are the charges against you?

Receiving huge foreign funds for derailing and destroying domestic industries, purchasing large coffee estates and resorts, uploading visuals insulting the national flag on Facebook, participating in secret camps organised by banned groups like Students Islamic Movement of India, association with those who work for terrorist groups in Pakistan and connections with Maoists.

Is there any truth in these allegations?

Each and every allegation is false and fabricated. Ours is a group of local environmental activists. Our organisation was formed more than two decades ago by the residents of Eloor and Edayar village panchayats, affected by pollution from hazardous wastes discharged by factories. We hold open meetings, agitations and campaigns against the pollution using money from our own pockets. Nothing is about us is a secret. We are ordinary people struggling for a safe environment. About 3,500 families around the industrial estate are affected by the pollution. We have been struggling for more than 20 years.

Then why does the council raise such allegations?

This is an outcome of the nexus between industries and politicians. The present investigation started early last year. First, a series of planted reports against us appeared in Big News, a publication which is not even registered. This was followed by a press conference by the Standing Council at Ernakulam Press Club. It got wide coverage in newspapers and channels. Subsequently, posters tarnishing us were put up everywhere. Then the council approached the chief minister and requested for immediate probe. They also published allegations against us in a blog called patriot.com

What is the basis of the allegation of denigrating the Tricolour on Facebook?

It is an effort to establish that I am involved in anti-national activities. For this they dragged in my friend Muhammedali, a resident of Eloor, working in Dubai. I know him from childhood. We are friends on Facebook, too. Like me, he also hails from a communist family. He was a CPI(M) member and was active in the library movement till he left for Dubai for a livelihood. The First Information Report (FIR) of the Crime Branch accuses Mohammedali of sharing visuals denigrating the national flag and spreading “I Love Pakistan” message through Facebook. The FIR also says by his close relationships with Pakistanis in UAE, he may indulge in anti-social activities. Just imagine, to trap me they tarnished an innocent person who is working far away from his home.

On Facebook have you posted or liked or shared anything against national interest?

Never. Neither he nor I posted or shared or liked anything insulting the flag or propagating anti-national feelings. Neither of us visited any Facebook page that carried the kind of things the FIR says. Interestingly, the standing council even handed over printouts of the photos allegedly posted on our Facebook to the Crime Branch.

How could they do that if you have not posted it?

They were fake.

Doesn’t it amount to cyber crime?

Yes. Mohammedali was extremely shocked. He filed a case in the Kerala High Court against the state government and the Crime Branch, praying for quashing of the false FIR against him. I have also filed a case. Besides, I lodged a complaint in the cyber crimes enquiry cell.

What was the outcome?

Whatever you do on the Facebook–posting, sharing, liking or tagging—will be recorded in its history. It is not difficult to find out whether you have committed a crime or not. After eight months of investigation, the cyber cell found that we were innocent. Since the allegations were serious I wanted to know the origin of all this. Google and VSNL informed the cyber cell that this blog was created in a computer in the office of Cochin Minerals & Rutile Limited, an industrial house producing synthetic rutile.

What does the government say now?

It ended up in an embarrassing position. A few days ago the Kerala Government submitted a statement in the High Court admitting that Mohemmadali’s Facebook did not contain any visual or post against national interest. The regional and national media gave wide coverage to this human rights violation by the government and its police.

Have you bought coffee estates and resorts?

No. But we, 11 friends, have together bought 4.29 acres (1.7 hectares) in Wayanad district. Of the 11, four are from our organisation. What I and my family have in Wayanad is only an old thatched house in a 64 cent plot. Recently, the government conducted a hunt for Maoists in Wayanad forests.

What is the plight of the Periyar now?

The river is dying. There are 15 dams upstream and 282 industries downstream. Of these, 110 are chemical industries. There are a number of scientific studies revealing the dismal plight of the river. Areas surrounding the industrial belt have become one of the toxic hot spots in the world. Most of the factories still discharge their raw hazardous effluent directly into the river. The riverbed has deposits of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, nickel, cobalt and zinc. Studies by the Cochin University of Science and Technology have revealed that the river ecosystem has many dead zones. Massive fish kills occur frequently. At times the river flows in different colours. Many species of flora and fauna have disappeared. The industrial cluster is only 20 km from the Kochi backwaters which is a part of the Vembanad Lake, a Ramsar site. All hazardous wastes finally reach the backwaters. On the one hand, water flow has significantly reduced due to dams, and on the other, contamination of water, soil and air has increased. Pollution of the river and surrounding wetlands has almost wiped out the traditional occupations, including fishing and farming.

Which are the main polluting companies?

Most of the companies contribute to toxic pollution. But there are a few companies like Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL), Merchem and Binani Zinc which have never bothered to abide by the laws. HIL, a Central government undertaking, has been producing insecticides including DDT and endosulfan since 1956. Production of endosulfan was stopped in 2011 after public protests and verdict from the Supreme Court. DDT is the most notorious of the 12 chlorinated chemicals identified for total elimination by the Stockholm Convention. HIL is one of the few remaining DDT producing factories in the world. Water samples from a small stream called Kuzhikkandam Thodu, where HIL discharges its effluent, have revealed presence of more than 100 organic compounds including organochlorines like DDT and its derivatives, which are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). This stream joins the river.

But did the situation not change after the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee’s intervention?

Not much. In 2004, when the monitoring committee visited Kerala, it was shocked to see the situation here. The Hazardous Wastes Rules were notified in 1989. In 1997, the Supreme Court ordered state pollution control boards across the country to show cause as to why industries without requisite authorisation or waste treatment facilities should not be closed down. Kerala State Pollution Control Board never bothered to pay attention to the Supreme Court’s rulings and observations. The committee ordered to close down the factories which do not abide by laws. At least 100 factories would have to close down in this industrial estate. The state pleaded for time to make the factories set up adequate facilities. The monitoring committee also set up a Local Area Environment Committee (LAEC) for auditing pollution and monitoring the functioning of these 100 companies. Some of the companies sincerely tried to reduce the pollution level by setting up new facilities. LAEC was vigilant. At that time there were obvious changes in the pollution level. But many of the companies which started functioning in a better way have fallen back to their old system of discharging raw effluent directly to the river.

Why?

The main reason is inefficiency of the pollution control board. The Board is corrupt from top to bottom. It is not monitoring anything. It is not transparent and people-friendly. Besides, the board is not capable of giving suggestions and guidelines to the industries on how to reduce the pollution level. When it comes to the application of science and technology, the board is years behind. Also, there is always tremendous political pressure to turn a blind eye towards pollution. To reduce pollution we need to know the mass balance which gives you the exact picture on raw materials and amount of water used, production capacity, actual production and quantity of wastes, solid and liquid, and pollution level. In the past 40 years, mass balance has been determined for not even a single company. Then how can the pollution level be reduced?

What does the state government say about reducing pollution?

It is not interested in solving the pollution issues. In 2000, we had raised a demand for a permanent river monitoring station for assessing the pollutions levels. The state government promised us that it would set up the station within six months. Nothing has happened as yet.

Let us come back to the investigations against you. You say CMRL is behind the false charges against you. Was there any immediate provocation?

Yes. This company produces synthetic rutile. The byproducts are ferric chloride and ferrous chloride. Since ferric chloride can be used in water treatment, the company sells it outside. As for ferrous chloride, the company used to discharge it into the river. This was the reason for Periyar’s change of colour at times. When Local Area Environment Committee objected, it had even transported the effluent to neighbouring Tamil Nadu in tankers and discharged it directly into open fields. We had caught them red-handed while doing this. Three years ago, the company started a project in Sabarimala for treating water using ferrous chloride in a stream highly contaminated by E-coli. We objected to it. First, adding chemicals directly into the river or stream is against the law. More than that, the company was using ferrous chloride contaminated with heavy metals. We constituted a fact-finding team. The team found that the project was a failure. The company was using this project for publicity in media. Finally, it had to wind up the project.

You said it was the complaint given by the standing council of trade unions that led to the ongoing investigations. Does it mean that there is a huge divide within the community between factory workers and those who fight for safe environment?

We have never demanded closure of the industries. Our demand is that industries should abide by the law and stop destroying ecosystems. Workers and trade union leaders who hail from Eloor-Edayar area give us moral support. They know what we stand for. They are very well aware of the issues. Their families, too, suffer from pollution. But the real problem creators are top level trade union leaders and politicians. They instigate fear among workers about a possible closure of the industries.

Have the polluters paid any compensation?

We had demanded medical insurance cards for the residents for up to Rs 1,00,000. In the last two years of the previous government we got medical cards which allowed treatment up to Rs 35,000. Companies bore the expenses. But when the present government came to power in 2011, it stopped this scheme.

Why are only residents of Eloor-Edayar region fighting against the pollution? Residents, hotels and hospitals of the Ernakulam (Cochin) city also use the Periyar water though they get treated water. Why are they not bothered about the pollution? Why don’t they join the struggle?

We have tried our best to make them take up the issue. We have met all the residents’ associations in the city and requested them to join the struggle. But they keep away and prefer silence. There are about 280 factories and influential industrialists, politicians who get money from these industries, and there are many other interest groups. Leave city people, even organisations like Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad, which is supposed to be a people’s science movement, has not taken up this issue as it should have.

Why have they targetted only you?

Not only me. They target all those who actively work against pollution. The goons of the companies will do anything. They may even kill you. Recently, Shibu Manuel, who has filed a public interest litigation in the high court for scientific cleaning of the Kuzhikkandam stream was attacked by the goons of the companies. They broke his legs and arms. He suffered serious injuries. He was actively pursuing the case. It can happen to me too. I constantly get threats on my life. The police have cautioned me to take care not to move alone. So the message is very clear: Stop your activism or be ready to die. The industry-politician nexus is trying to eliminate us.

Does all this affect your morale?

Yes, very much. It is really painful to face allegations and investigations after years of fighting for a cause. Everywhere in our country, those who engage in grassroots struggles face similar situations. At times, I have the urge to live a quiet and peaceful life. The cases and courts consume your time, energy and money. All this would divert our attention from the main issues. That’s exactly what the industry-politician nexus wants.

Interviewee:
Purushan Eloor

 

#India- When rape ‘survivor’ becomes ‘victim’ #Vaw #Gender #Justice #mustread


 By-  Sherin B.S. at kafila.org

MARCH 16, 2013

SHERIN B.S. writes from Hyderabad: There is a constant demand for a change in the terminology from ‘rape victim’ to ‘rape survivor’ in the agenda of feminist concerns in discourses related to rape. But beyond the feminist investment on surviving rape, a systematic reading of public discourses presents the traumatic sustenance of layers of violence that follows rape. TheSuryanelli girl has survived rape, but the violent experience of life after rape perpetrated by systemic structures of patriarchy places her at the receiving end of a system that consciously alienates, humiliates and hunts her down.

While referring to the Suryanelli rape case there are two kinds of discourses circulated widely. One is the question of legality of the crime involved, with a heavily prejudiced and unsympathetic legal frame work attempting to frame the girl as an eternal victim subject for whom justice is almost impossible, mediated through parallel machinery of the state, including law enforcement. The impossibility of justice is not the intention of the legal machinery but it comes through the operating forces of judgments, prosecution stands, law enforcing offices like police stations and officers, and questions of evidence, alibis and so on.

The second discourse is the moral discourse heavily prejudiced and antagonistic to the survivor that happily relates the story of the fallen girl, punished for her deviance thus providing a lesson to all women in the society. This discourse is circulated through the specificities of the rape case but intentionally expecting to form a larger field of reprimands, guidelines, moral lessons for any woman who violates the unwritten codes of conduct. In both the discourses the survivor and the harrowing experiences that she went through lie somewhere far off from the domain of address, which rises from definitive intention to control and exploit female sexuality. Alternatively this moral realm affects and manipulates the operations of the legal discourse as clearly evident from the high court judgment releasing all the accused from the Suryanelli case.

The Suryanelli Rape Case

The Suryanelli rape, occurred in 1996 in Kerala, involves the abduction, severe exploitation and rape of a sixteen year old school girl, abducted and taken to different places in Kerala, by 42 men from all walks of life.  Between January 16 and February 26 she was submitted to extreme and horrible forms of sexual violence. The survivor named many high profiled politicians and professionals including Congress leader and the present Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien as part of her assaulters, but they did not figure in the charge sheet given the consideration of lack of evidence. Nair Service Society office bearer Sukumaran Nair came up with a statement to support P J Kurien to say that Kurien had met him at the office during the particular time of the day mentioned by the girl. In 2000 September the special court for sexual assault convicted 35 of the accused for rigorous imprisonment and punishment. But in 2005, on the basis of the appeal filed against this judgment the High Court of Kerala acquitted all the convicted and punished just one, the third accused, that too reducing his sentence to five years. The public which had already ostracized her got the right weapon then to high light its moral judgment on the girl. The innuendos promoted by many mainstream Malayalam dailies got affirmation through the verdict.

In 2012 the girl was arrested for an alleged financial irregularity case in the office where she was working. The lawyers of the girl say that vested interest had set her up as her case was coming up in the Supreme Court. The recent development in the issue is the Supreme Court’s directions to the High court to re- examine the case, finding the High court judgment legally flawed. It should be noted that this is based on an appeal filed by the Kerala Government against the High court judgment, which remained pending for about seven years. Another development in the case is the capture of the only convicted accused of Suryanelli Case who had jumped bail earlier, making a statement that the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha , P.J Kurien was involved in the case and he personally had taken Kurien to the Guest house referred to by the girl. In the light of this statement there has been wide spread demands to re-open the case to include Kurien in the list of the accused.

Justice delayed:

Now the delay in the legal proceedings that adds to the intense suffering and communal ostracising of the girl for 17 years has never been addressed. The way, the case has been handled/mis handled by the law enforcing officers,  the survivor was taken from place to place as part of the enquiry and medical examination and some of the Malayalam dailies made titillating stories out of a sixteen year old who was brutally raped by 42 men, all add to the legal injustice done to her. Being a constant spectacle for the demands of a sex-starved society, the print media that covered her case through convoluted stories celebrated her as a piece of spicy ingredient.

That seventeen years have passed and still the crime committed to a sixteen year old has been denied justice shows the inadequacy of the legal mechanism in the country. It is to be noted that the rampant criticism extended by the feminist organizations regarding the delay in sexual assault cases in the light of the Delhi rape has resulted a speedy dealing of the Suryanelli appeal. Now the delay in justice has resulted in many things: the sixteen year old girl has lived seventeen years through the humiliation of a rigid moral society, the girl has been constantly chased and hunted down by a group of accused in a defensive mode, the entire family goes through the social stigma towards the rape survivor…the story goes on. While considering the case will all these be concerns for law?

Double standards of print journalism:

Malayala Manorama, the leading Malayalam daily started the stories in a melodramatic vein like a soap serial initially and portrayed her in the typical victim’s cloth. Initially she was referred to as the Munnar girl and the daily came out with front page reports on the issue. (Malayala Manorama, 19th March). Titles like “forty days, forty monsters” added to the melodramatic effect. But from 1996 April 2nd onwards the news paper changed its stand. Interestingly, it was around this period  the investigation turned to political leaders and professionals. Though never included in the list of accused, college professors like Jacob Mathew and Congress leader P.J Kurien were implicated during this phase of the investigation. Malayala Manorama reported discrepancy in the girl’s statement at this point. April 3, 1996 issue of the daily carried a front page cartoon, titled Agniputri representing a girl with the list of UDF candidates and someone from the background addressing her as comrade, prompting her to pause and wail after reading out each name from the list. This was the most naturalized form of misogyny that Kerala society received without any protest. While attempting to protect P.J Kurien and those close to the Catholic Church, Manorama violated all decencies of journalist etiquette and human concerns.

Violence of public discourses:

Recourse to family and sentiments of compassion are often revoked while dealing with the rape accused. P.J Kurien’s wife’s statement gets wide public circulation where she laments her plight and that of two daughters who are severely affected by the image tarnishing that takes place. Presenting her husband as a victim of vested interests she urges the feminists to consider her family too in this game of political lobbying. Along the same lines, moral statements regarding the character of the girl come out. Congress leader from Kerala, Sudhakaran says there should be a border line between prostitution and rape cases and that the victim of the Suryanelli case had a questionable character. He also adds that those who support the girl should think that Kurien has a family. Now this support to Kurien’s family evolves from a biased view about family and sexuality. It becomes problematic because this discourse exposes the moral grounds with which rapes have always been discussed in India. More than Rape, the violation of family values becomes a concern. The same concern also is denied to the survivor by branding her as morally deviant.

Thus the Suryanelli girl’s family should suffer because she is deviant, capable of lying and possesses an objectionable character. The binary logic of sexual promiscuity and sexual chastity helps in trivializing the rape, making the survivor the deserving body upon which the crime can be acted. The binaries of vicious mind reflecting the vicious body helps in justifying the alienation of the victim and evoking sympathies for the accused. When a normative family bonding and honor become a necessity to deserve justice, why is it that the same concern and justice is denied to the victim? The double standards of this discourse well justify Arundhati Roy’s response to Delhi rape that this exceptional reaction derives from the fact that it plays into our idea of the criminal poor: the rickshawallah and the vegetable vendor… The initial days of Suryanelli investigation drew sympathetic support for the victim, as the investigation proceeded through the involvement of  the bus cleaner, the fruit vendor, the police constable and similar images that cater to our idea of the perfect criminal. These sympathies were turned around, as and when the upper middle class, aristocratic Syrian Christians and political leaders appeared in the frame. The empathisers leave her, she becomes the prostitute and references shift to her non reliability as a person of character.

The legal discourse:

The Suryanelli case is also a typical example of a rape case fought for many years (about seventeen years) and still reached nowhere. As in the case of Mathura and other infamous judgments from apex courts, the Suryanelli judgment also evokes questions on the irresponsible and insensitive functioning of the criminal judicial system. The judgment that strives hard to prove that the girl’s statements are false, relating to a previous experience of her lying about the hostel fee of four hundred and fifty rupees and misusing it and also an attempt on her part to pawn her ornament. These are the basic premise on which the girl’s statements have been verified. The judgment reads while debating the difference between rape and consensual sex:

“When we read the evidence of PW3, we have to be cognizant of her psyche- her mental makeup. Her past conduct and behavior have to be borne in mind. She was only a student of 9th standard. She had squandered Rs. 450/- entrusted to her by her father for remitting hostel fees……That piece of conduct is admitted by her… a school girl will always be obliged to account when hostel fee is not remitted. She was prepared to take that risk. Added to this is, as suggested by the counsel for the appellants that she was even courageous enough to approach a jeweler for pledging an ornament of hers which her parents had given her to wear, meaning thereby that she had much capability of courage of even withstanding a question by her parents as to the loss of such ornament. She admitted during the evidence that she had done so. So this gives indications about the conduct and mental makeup of PW3. … She was not a normal innocent girl of that age. She was a different person. The peculiarity in her personality must realistically be borne in mind. The evidence of a person of her age with such a conduct certainly has to be viewed seriously and with caution. A court cannot meekly swallow her version. It requires serious critical assessment.” (pp. 42-43)

The very idea that the crucial question of whether the sexual acts of violence on a ninth standard student by 42 men in a period of 40 days have been consensual or not is arrived at on the basis of these two past instances shows the non-empathetic and inhuman impulses behind the judgment leading to the contention that the prosecution failed in proving the absence of consent. Rather the judgment further claims that the unwillingness spoken by the girl now before the court is an excuse found by her to save her face in the family and among the relatives for her long absence of forty days from her house. During the 40 days of sexual assault the Bench finds several instances for the girl to escape her assaulters, in the bus stand, at the doctor’s place, lodges etc. The consideration extended to the accused related to corroborative evidences or circumstances are denied to the girl, where her age, intimidated psyche, physical and mental agony of violence she was undergoing were not enough reasons for the Bench to decide that the ninth standard girl could not plan an escape. With a clean conscience the judgment rules out possibilities of adopting the normal approach for appreciating the evidence of a rape victim.

The concurring observations by Justice Basant lamenting the failure of making the consenting age for sexual intercourse to 18, is a pathetic justification for such an unsympathetic judgment. Not only that this observation brings down the entire question of sexual violence on the survivor to the concurrence of sexual consent between that period of two years, it brings in binaries of experience of sexual assault before 18 after 18, before sixteen after 16, and so on. The result of such an in-capacious and tapered thinking would be to divert the focus from the intensity of the violence and the damage done on the victim to the mental state of the victim while producing or not producing the consent. The double standards and heavy moral weightage of this observation get exposed in the further paragraphs where he talks about the young girl who succumbed to temptations of a consumerist society and also implications of not being groomed in the proper atmosphere with a proper value system. The observation goes to the extent of saying that such children can be termed as deviants but cannot be merely condemned and left to their fate. Now the implications would be, the Suryanelli rape survivor is deviant, her parents could not bring her up in a healthy atmosphere, and that was the reason why she gave consent to the sexual atrocities on her body to forty two men for forty days. And the recommendation ends with a need for a change in law.

This is an easy washing off and shrugging away one’s responsibilities. The constant urge to prove her evidences false overthrows and challenges this claim to neutral justice.  The non accountability of law to the female citizens and the misogynist sentiments of arbitrators reflect in Suryanelli case as well. The recent remarks of Justice Basant on the girl’s character reveal the prejudices underlying the judgment.

Paradoxes in Kerala’s modernity:

The ways in which Suryanelli case recurs in Kerala’s public sphere reveals the aberrations in Kerala’s notion of modernity. While making a ponderous claim to cultural elitism and modern consciousness related to its literacy rates, living standards, health care and above all the pervasiveness of electoral politics and thinking in the public sphere, the misogyny witnessed in this state is quite ironical. Permeating all walks of life there lie misogyny and moral policing that more or less affects all forms of political thinking in the state. No other Indian state can parallel Kerala in misogyny regarding the way feminists and women’s movements have been referred to in Kerala, female political party leaders have been tarnished, and work places and other public places have alienated women.

The recent remark of a college teacher in a public function sponsored by the government of Kerala aiming at women’s empowerment that it needs only ten minutes for a man including him to insert sperm in a woman’s uterus, and then it is for the woman to carry the child for the next ten months, shows the underlying layers of prejudices, violence and misogyny in Kerala. In such a public sphere innumerable stories flourish on the Suryanelli survivor, making her a titillating piece for the consumption of the sex-starved male psyche of Kerala.

The largest political party in the country did not have any qualms in letting a person implicated in a rape case to chair the Rajya Sabha proceedings during discussions on gender justice and prevention of sexual violence against women. The urge was rather to support him than the survivor. The heavy political bias taken by the leading political parties have done enough damage to the survivor and her family, as in many earlier cases.  When the case is re-examined will there be a provision to address the irreparable damage in terms of mental, physical and emotional harassment that has been done to a rape survivor and her family for the past seventeen years?  Who would choose this plight if this is what it means to survive rape?

(Sherin B.S. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.)

 

#India- Kerala church bans Suryanelli rape victim #Vaw #Censorship #WTFnews


By, TNN | Mar 7, 2013,

Kerala church bans Suryanelli rape victim
Women’s rights groups staging protests against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien, a fortnight ago, outside Parliament demanding his resignation over the Suryanelli gangrape case.
 KOCHI: A Catholic church in central Kerala has banned the Suryanelli gang-rape victim and her relatives from entering the church.

St Francis Xavier Church at Sachivothamapuram near Kurichy in Kottayam district is said to have issued the directive two weeks ago. The church falls under Vijayapuram diocese and was established in 1906.

As the residents in the area have come to know the identity of the victim and her family, it is better that they should stay away from the church until all the problems related to the case are resolved, the church is said to have ordered.

The victim had recently lodged a police complaint and a petition before a local magistrate court for probe against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien alleging that he had raped her. However, the court had last week dismissed the girl’s plea for investigation against Kurien.

The victim’s plea was based on revelation by lone rape convict, advocate Dharamarajan of Idukki.

Catholic church’s own news service, Union of Catholic Asian News, had recently described the victim as a “16-year-old Catholic schoolgirl” and Kurien as “a Kerala Christian and Congress party leader”.

In an interview to a news channel, Dharmarajan had stated that Kurien went to a guest house at Kumily in his car and that the girl was raped there.

The case relates to a 16-year-old schoolgirl being sexually abused by around 42 men over 40 days after abducting her and transporting her across Kerala.

On January 31 this year, the Supreme Court had quashed the Kerala high court‘s mass acquittal in the sex racket case granting benefit of doubt in January 2005. The high court had let go of all the accused except Dharmarajan, who was found guilty of sex trafficking.

 

#India- And Justice for the ‘Suryanelli Girl’ #Rape #Vaw


Sexually assaulted for 40 days continuously, by 42 men: After 17 long years, will this epic tale of injustice ever end?

Arathi PM Delhi/Kasaragod (Kerala), Hardnews

 

The national capital witnessed unparalleled protests for gender justice and sexual violence against women. The December 16 gangrape in Delhi generated public attention across the national spectrum. However, public memory in Kerala hardly recollected the injustice inflicted on a girl (now grown-up woman) from a small village in Idukki district called Suryanelli for 17 long years by the criminal justice system of this country.

The patriarchal public sphere of Kerala and the ruling Congress government in Kerala treated the ‘Suryanelli girl’ with complete insensitivity. She was mentally tortured. The government tried to ‘teach her a lesson’ on what happens if you fight against big shots like PJ Kurian (Congress leader and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha) by constituting a false money misappropriation case against her. Through stares, sexist, derogatory statements, the male gaze and social exclusion, the public sphere made social life impossible for her.

On January 31, 2013, the Supreme Court expressed its shock at the Kerala High Court verdict in the
Suryanelli case and ordered a retrial within six months; hence, media attention has refocused on the case.

The Suryanelli case involved the rape of a 16-year-old girl. In 1996, she was sexually assaulted for 40 days continuously — by 42 men. Due to the unique character of this case, it was discussed in diverse spheres. Among the accused were high-profile individuals. These included Kurian, then cabinet minister in Delhi. The case led to a huge political debate in Kerala and was used as a campaign point in the parliamentary and assembly elections. The issue was taken up by feminist groups seeking justice for the victim/survivor (I am not calling her only ‘survivor’, as she has been ‘victimised’ by the entire social system).

The then CP(M)-led Left Front government in Kerala constituted the first-ever special court in 1999 for the trial. This took into consideration the large number of the accused and witnesses and the involvement of different jurisdictions. This special court convicted 36 of the 42 accused in 2002 on charges of abduction, conspiracy, illegal detention, rape and gangrape. This verdict was overturned by a division bench of the Kerala High Court that acquitted all but one among the convicted 36.

Indeed, the verdict of the Kerala High Court by Justice KA Abdul Gafoor and Justice R Basanth (dated 20.1.2005) is primarily based on male fantasies about the female body and sexuality. The institutional inter-play of law and medicine, based on their inherent anti-women perception, is reflected here since the
medical/forensic evidence played a crucial role in the judicial decision-making process.

The special prosecutor had contended that, in spite of the severe infection in her vagina, the main accused and many others had raped the girl. Some of them raped her more than twice a day. According to her deposition in the court, during those horrible days, her condition was precarious and she had acute pain at the back of the hip. In spite of this, the division bench observed that “to rape a girl with such ailments, pain and infected vagina may be humanly impossible, as contended by the appellants, except with roaring cry from the victim (the girl)… has no case that she had even wept during the alleged rapes… no resistance mark was found on her body”.

According to the doctor, there were no signs or evidence of ‘resistance’. The bench observed that the girl had many opportunities to run away but she did not do so. The Kerala High Court did not even take into account previous judicial observations in the Mathura case that absence of resistance does not amount to willingness to have sex. When the girl was terrorised and forced to undergo sex, the court considered it consent.

The judgment held that the medical opinion was of no help to the prosecution to prove that there was intercourse using force. The doctor who examined the girl after she came back home, had given crucial evidence for the prosecution. The doctor reported that “vaginal examination was painful, vulva was oedematous. There was infection. There was purulent foul smelling discharge. She would have suffered severe pain during the sexual act if it had continued as stated by her during the period of infection.” (High Court of Kerala, 2005, pp 481.)

But the judges pointed out that at the time of cross-examination the doctor said that infection could also be caused by uterine contraceptive devices. The doctor told the court that he examined the vaginal wall and did not find it lacerated. The court observed, that, according to the doctor, during violent intercourse also, “laceration in the vaginal wall occurs posteriorly.” (High Court of Kerala, 2005, pp 482-483).

Thus, overturning the verdict by the trial court, the division bench completely glossed over the evidence given by the victim and medical evidence. Legal precedence in the case of medical and corroboratory evidence was conveniently ignored by the judges.

Ironically, the court observed the past history of the girl and found she had misappropriated the money given by her parents to pay hostel fees and had sold her ornaments to pay the fees. That, for the court, meant her ‘character’ was not good, and thus it was not ready to accept the allegation of rape from such a girl. The court said that her father used to be suspicious about her character and gave directions to hostel authorities that permission for her to go out should be granted only with his prior consent. If a girl of this ‘character’ spent 40 days away from the parents, it was implied that she had consented to have sex. To prove otherwise, corroborative evidence was needed.

These sexist remarks are reproduced through judicial decisions time and again. In the Suryanelli case, the High Court of Kerala verdict explicitly does character assassination of the victim/survivor.

‘She was a child prostitute. It was not rape… She was a child with a bad track record’ — Justice R Basanth

The other contention is that there is no reliable evidence. The only vital evidence is that of ‘PW3’, who cannot be reckoned as a ‘trustworthy’ witness. Her evidence deserves careful scrutiny because of her past conduct of squandering the hostel fees and daring to pledge her ornaments (on 1.11.1996). (High Court of Kerala, 2005, Para 10.)

It is contended that even if PW3 is found to be believable, a conjoint reading of her evidence will show that she was not an unwilling partner. So far as the accused are concerned, there was no resistance from her part, so that those who approached her could discern that she was unwilling for intercourse or there was absence of consent. Absence of consent on the part of PW3 has not been satisfactorily proved in this case to bring home the  guilt of the accused under Section 376(1) or 376(2)(g), (Para 11).

The court was concerned that in these 40 days the girl did not make a single attempt to escape. She stayed in a number of hotels and travelled in public conveyance. She could have tried to escape but she did not do so. The allegation that she was raped while she had severe vaginal infection was false, it said. Astonishingly, the court opined that it was not humanly possible to rape in such condition unless and until she screams. Since the court did not have evidence that she cried out loudly, it reasoned that most of the accused approached her misunderstanding her, to be a prostitute.

If the girl had shown resistance, then only could it be called rape. Considering the ‘character’ of the girl, it was difficult to believe that she had shown resistance. The court concluded that the family wanted a justification for their daughter absconding. So the family portrayed her as a victim of rape to save their face in public.

On February 9, 2013, in a sting operation by a Malayalam TV channel, Justice R Basanth was seen to make this observation: “She was a child prostitute. It was not rape. She used to misuse the money given by her father to remit the school fees. She was a child with a bad track record.” There was huge outrage against him in Kerala, demanding punishment under the provision related to character assassination in the upcoming central ordinance.

The central contestation in the Suryanelli trial revolves around the expression of ‘consent’ or on the determination of whether a coercive act of sex is rape or not. The judiciary interprets ‘consent’ on the basis of marks of ‘resistance’ on the female. This has always been ratified by medical opinion by using the demeaning ‘two finger test’.

Patriarchal values influence the judicial understanding of what, in a woman’s actions or words, imply consent to sex. There are major criticisms raised by women’s movements against taking bodily resistance of the female as a vantage point in judicial decision-making in cases of rape. The demand to abolish the ‘two finger test’ should be viewed in this context; this is another recommendation by the Verma Committee.

The demand for amending criminal codes in cases of sexual assault comes from around the globe. Joan McGregor (Why When She Says No She Doesn’t Mean Yes: A Critical Reconstruction of Consent, Sex and the Law), argues that “criminal sex codes are infected with the history of patriarchy, which protects the interests of the men and fails to protect the interests of women” (1996, p. 176).

The central contestation in the Suryanelli trial revolves around ‘consent’ or on the determination of whether coercive act of sex is rape or not

Feminist legal theorists critique the understanding of physical resistance as a corroborative requirement and discussion of past sexual histories in rape cases. They point out that these assumptions are not objective and rational under criminal law and are thus unfair. The same argument is reflected in the Verma Committee’s recommendations.

When the judiciary categorises women as ‘good’ or ‘bad’  by looking at them through a judicial lens of past sexual experiences and affirms the findings by corroborating them with forensic examination results, it tries to reinforce morality. Until recently, before the enactment of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2010, rape within heterosexual marital relationships was not accepted by the judiciary. Within the family and within marital relationship, violence is taken for granted.

Some court directives to the accused in rape cases to marry the victim/survivor comes from the patriarchal idea that female bodies can be ‘legitimately violated’ by the male within the institution of marriage. In the Suryanelli case, the verdict of the lower court to punish all the accused also comes from sympathy for the plight of the victim/survivor for not being able to have a ‘normal marital life’ after this bad experience; it even directed to award compensation under the Code of Criminal ProcedureThe ‘protective’ character assumed by the Indian judiciary, based on notions of chastity and virginity, challenges the feminist notions of female sexuality and women’s rights of control over their bodies.

Therefore, while awarding the sentence, the court cannot ignore the tragic plight of PW3. It has a duty to wipe out her tears to the extent possible. It is not possible to erase the traumatic experience; the inhuman treatment would be alive in her memory forever. Her professional career is forever lost. She cannot aspire for employment or a serene married life, considering the social surroundings of our society. Virtually, she has lost her life itself.

There are several levels of bias, insensitivity and trauma in medico-legal procedures. In the Suryanelli case, she was the object of publicity, she had to undergo exhausting trips from one hospital to another, and multiple examinations. For sections of the media, every hospital visit was a voyeuristic spectacle, causing her immense trauma.

There were huge protests by women’s groups against the construction of rape as a scandal-spectacle. The Kerala High Court then took suo moto cognizance of a pamphlet by an NGO as application against producing the victim/survivor for evidence/ forensic examinations along with the accused in the same vehicle. The court issued an order against such police action.

It is difficult for a girl of 16, from a lower middle class rural background, to approach the court without additional/external support. The judicial trend created by the Kerala High Court verdict is dangerous. The decision violates female bodies and sabotages the spirit of law to protect the rights of women from sexual exploitation. It is hoped that the direction of the Supreme Court to conduct a retrial will act as a corrective. One cannot, however, say if this will bring any qualitative change in the life of the ‘Suryanelli girl’..

 

Kerala girl who thrashed men for verbal abuse faces court case #1billionrising #Vaw #WTFnews


PTI | Feb 19, 2013, 10.32 PM IST

 
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A college girl who hit the headlines by kicking and punching those who harassed her at an eatery recently has landed in trouble with the city police registering a case against her based on a local court order.

The courage shown by Amrita, a final year degree student of a city college, has been widely applauded for the way she “handled” her tormentors at a wayside eatery on her way home after participating in “One Billion Rising” programme at Shanghumugham beach on February 14.


After her bold act appeared in the media, she has been showered with phone calls and letters praising the manner in which she handled the situation and a state minister even visited her home to pat the courageous girl.

Following the incident, police registered a case against the two men.


One of the accused, however, filed a private complaint in a local court alleging he had been beaten up by the girl who also blocked his car.

Admitting the complaint, the court on Monday directed the city police to register a case and investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, state women’s commission chairperson KC Rosakutty and leaders of various women outfits criticised the action against Amrita, who is widely seen as a symbol of courage.

 

A black belt in Karate, Amrita said she would legally fight the case against her.

#India-Raped by 42 men in 40 days, case to be heard after eight-year gap #Vaw #Justicedelayed


Reported by A Vaidyanathan, Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: January 03, 2013, NDTV

Raped by 42 men in 40 days. Supreme Court to hear case after eight-year gap

New DelhiFor nearly eight years, a woman from Kerala who was gang-raped by 42 men in 40 days has been waiting for the Supreme Court to take up  her case.Today, the Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir said hearings will begin within three weeks.

The case is known as the Suryanelli rape case, after the village in Kerala where the woman lived with her parents. They have moved houses twice since then, driven out they say by jeering neighbours.

“Nobody accepts us; when they see us, they try to avoid us. We don’t go out,” said her father.

The Supreme Court’s decision today to begin hearing her case comes after the Chief Justice said yesterday that fast-track trials are essential for rape cases. His comments were made as he inaugurated a special court which will hold daily hearings in the case of a 23-year-old medical student who died after being raped by six men on a moving bus on December 16.   The attack and her death have pushed India into demanding improved safety for women and tougher and more effective laws for sexual crimes.

In the Suryanelli case, a 16-year-old was abducted by a bus conductor who raped her, then passed her onto others, some of who were powerful and well-connected in Kerala at the time.

She was then discarded with no money and in no condition to return home – she couldn’t sit or stand because of her injuries.

It was her case that led in 1999 to the commissioning of Kerala’s first special court dedicated to handling cases of sexual assault.

35 people accused of raping her were convicted. But the Kerala High Court, three years later, reversed that decision, holding only one person guilty. The grounds for this verdict were criticised by many people.

Her family and the state prosecutor both appealed to the Supreme Court in 2005 against the High Court’s verdict. Nothing happened after that.

The family survives on her parents’ pensions. The victim was given a job as a peon in a government department but in February, she was arrested and suspended for financial misappropriation.