'Baby frock', a symbol which pains voters in poll-bound Kerala

·3-min read

Kannur (Ker), Mar 25 (PTI): Some poll symbols may bring a smile on the face of voters and some others may make them think.

But, in Kerala, where campaigning is on at a feverish pitch for the April 6 Assembly polls, an election symbol is causing grave pain in the minds of people and bringing back the memories of horrorssuffered by two little girls four years ago.

The mother of the Walayar sisters, who is contesting as an independent candidate against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Dharmadam constituency here, has got 'baby frock' as her symbol.

The two minor girls were found hanging under suspicious circumstances in their hut at Walayar in Palakkad district, after an alleged sexual assault on them in 2017.

The woman, who has been on a warpath demanding justice for her daughters and action against those police personnel who had allegedly made lapses in the probe into the death of the girls, wanted 'frock' as her poll symbol.

When the mysterious death of the sisters had kicked up a widespread public outcry in the state four years ago, the picture of their baby clothes had been the profile photo of a large number of social media users.

The woman, who had recently tonsured her head to protest alleged inaction against the police personnel, launched her campaignin the constituency on Wednesday.

'I am not contesting to become an MLA or a minister...

My fight at Dharmadam is seeking dharma...I want to ask the Chief Minister where is justice,' she said in an election convention here Wednesday evening.

Well-known activist C R Neelakandan, who is also the patron of Walayar Agitation Committee, said they began door- to-door campaigning in the constituency.

'The mother's is a symbolic fight. She wants justice for her daughters. We are meeting voters now,' he told P T I.

Asked how was the response of the people, especially women in Dharmadam, he said it is a complete Left bastion and so those who were expressing open support were very few.

Announcing her candidature against Pinarayi Vijayan on March 16, the woman had said that she had met the Chief Minister in Thiruvananthapuram and 'cried and begged him' to ensure that those responsible for the death of the children should be brought to book.

She had also said she would take the supportof everyone except the Sangh Parivar in the April 6 polls.

Vijayan, however, said that his government had always stood by her and never hurt her.

The woman had tonsured her head on February 27 after staging a month-long satyagraha in Palakkad.

Expressing solidaritywith her in her fight, two social activists had also tonsured their heads.

The LDF government had in January decided to hand over to the CBI the probe into the death of the two girls shortly after the Kerala High Court ordered a re-trial in the sensational Walayar case.

Allowing appeals filed by the state government and the mother of the children, the high court had on January 6 this year ordered a re-trial in the case, observing that there were 'serious lapses' in the investigation and that there has been 'miscarriage of justice'.

The court had also set aside an October 2019 order of POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Court acquitting the five accused for want of evidence.

The eldest of the siblings aged 13 was found hanging inside their hut in Walayar in Palakkad district on January 13, 2017 and her nine-year old sister had died on March 4 in the same manner.

A public outcry and protests erupted in the state after the acquittal of the accused, seeking justice to the family of the girls.

The state government had, on November 18, 2019, removed the Public Prosecutor who handled the case and later filed the appeal in the High Court.PTI LGK SS PTI PTI