Two young girls, sisters, were found hanging in the same place in their single-room house in Wayalar in Palakkad within a gap of three months. The elder one was 13 and the younger one 9.
Two years later, four persons who were accused of abetment to suicide and rape in the case have been acquitted by the First Additional Sessions Judge, Palakkad. The death of the minor girls had sent shock waves across the state. But the acquittal of the accused has been even more shocking.
Since the beginning, there seems to have been lapses in the investigation in the case. The first lapse occured when the police did not take the post-mortem report on the elder girl seriously.
Sub Inspector Chacko had been suspended over the lapse. There was even an investigation into the alleged police lapses. But none of it could help make the case stronger, eventually allowing the accused to walk free.
Social consciousness, however, is not willing to give up. The acquittal has come as a jolt, prompting many to call out the lapses in the initial investigation, and subsequent follow-up by the prosecution.
But these lapses, points out Malayalam news portal Dool News journalist Shafeeq Thamarassery in a Facebook post, are not mere lapses but instead grave criminal offences committed by the police. He urged for an inquiry by the home department by charging the police personnel involved in the investigation for sabotaging the case.
Shafeeq says that it was not a mere lapse that the police didn’t record the statement of the younger sister who said she saw two men hiding their faces and running from the spot where the elder girl was found hanging and that she had to hide behind an electric post so the men wouldn’t see her.
The police, Shafeeq says, didn’t take statements from locals who said that there were marks caused by nails on the body of the elder girl.
The move by the police is even more suspicious as the FIR prepared by Sub Inspector Pinson P Joseph of the Wayalar Police Station stated that the girl took her own life due to mental agony, says Shafeeq and calls for a detailed re-investigation into the case.
Noted Dalit activist Meera Velayudhan also urged a re-investigation by relating the case with that of the Pehlu Khan case in Rajasthan. She too says that the police officials who didn’t collect the evidence should be punished. She flayed the Minister for SC/ST Affairs AK Balan’s vague statement that the case will be re-investigated if evidence is found, washing his hands off his constitutional responsibility for ensuring justice to those who are defenceless.
“There are also question marks on child welfare committees, several investigations have shown,” Meera says.
Dalit activist Rekha Raj flayed the minister asking if he was expecting someone to send the evidence by parcel.
Advocate Harish Vasudevan criticised Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan severely for his silence on the lapses of the home department, a portfolio that he himself holds. He urged the CM to step down if he cannot answer on the lapses.
Journalist Sreejith Divakaran too asked the CM to shed his silence on the issue. “The police and the legal system gave all their support for the accused to get acquitted. What made the police bold is that there was no one to speak for the girls and their parents, and that they would be protected by the home department,” he adds.
Sreejith points to the case of Vinayakan, a youth who was allegedly killed due to custodial torture, to attest that Dalit people who face police atrocities don’t get justice.
Writer KR Meera said that sexual abuse cases only benefit corrupt police officials and defence lawyers.
“This can be understood by examining the list of accused in sexual assault cases. The names get repeated in several lists. There are even people who can be called serial rapists. Why they repeat this is because either they are not caught for their crimes or they get acquitted.”
Meera, like many, believes that the Walayar case is more serious because of the politics – the family’s caste and their financial backwardness.
“They are the ones who are kept away from all power centres and they are the ones who are being exploited. The post-mortem report of the younger girl says that she died before the mango she ate had digested, which implies that it was the last thing she ate.”
Meera asks the CM if he believes that a nine-year-old would kill herself after staving off hunger with a mango?