The brutal rape and murder of the law student in her home by an unknown person comes as a warning to literate Kerala.
Many had not thought that incidents like that in Delhi could visit Kerala though there was a previous incident of a girl being pushed out of train and raped on the tracks while she lay bleeding and died.
“The distance from Perumbavoor to our homes is less than that from Delhi to Perumbavoor,” said a facebook post demanding justice for the victim. The same fear was expressed by people who attended protest gatherings before the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.
In fact, two other dalit girls too had been raped recently— one before the Perumbavoor incident at Attingal and another on Wednesday at Varkala, in Thiruvananthapuram district. There were two other reports include rape a minor by her father.
There are complaints that the police did not undertake a proper investigation of the Perumbavoor case until the issue gained attention in the social media and the post mortem report came out describing 38 injuries suffered by the victim. Questions have also been raised on whether the post mortem was done properly. As the protests grew putting even the government, which is facing an election, in the dock, the police swung into action. They have deployed around 80 policemen for the investigation and taken several people into custody.
Yet another human rights issue may soon arise if the police keep them in custody for more than 24 hours, for there is no confirmation that any of them is the culprit.
As campaign for Assembly elections are going on, the issue is receiving wide traction. The Opposition leaders are blaming police for delay in the investigations. “It seems that the police are interested only in saving their political masters from corruption charges,” Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly V. S. Achuthanandan told an election convention in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy reacted quickly. They visited the home of the victim, a single room house on ‘puramboke’ land. Mr. Chandy also called on her mother who is in hospital, but was met with protests from activists of Democratic Youth Federation of India and Social Democratic Party of India.
Mr. Achuthanandan too visited the mother who was away from her house to seek help to build a new house when her daughter was brutalised. “This kind of brutalities will occur when an inept Chief Minister is ruling the State,” he told the media after the visit.
It may be recalled that Mr. Achuthanandan had come to power in 2006 promising that rapists would be handcuffed. But nothing like that happened, his critics point out.
Mr. Chandy said that the culprit would be brought to book. ”None should politicise the issue. Investigations are progressing.”
If the clamour after the Nirbhaya incident in Delhi was for tightening of the laws and increasing of the severity of punishment for rape, that kind of discussion is no more heard in Kerala. Apparently, people have realised that legislative measures have not helped. However, the demand for retributive justice has only gone up. Several people who participated in a phone-in television programme were heard demanding that the culprit should be delivered to the public for them to punish him “properly”. A few actors also raised similar demands. If such clamour gains ground, it could undermine the rule of law. A few days ago, people had acted against a migrant worker who died after the local people left him on the road with his hands and legs tied.
But, one of the protesters before the Secretariat lamented that none of those who were speaking at the protest meetings of the social media were proposing solutions. “If the victim was housed in a better environment, the people around there would have reacted and saved her,” he (S. Jeevan) said.
But, Seeta Dasan, who is from a fisherman family, stressed that the main issue was not whether your homes are secure. “The issue stems from the fact that you are a woman.”
Perhaps, sociologists and criminologists will have to delve into the issue and find out what is wrong with the society. Still, the solutions seem to be far off as traditional values have taken a beating and new ones had not been found to cope with new environments created by the entertainment media, the Internet, new work places and changing social milieu.