Politics

Kerala Sexual Abuse Cases: Why Is The Communist Government So Indifferent?

Nuns stage a protest seeking justice.
Snapshot
  • The communist record on women safety has been poor. It is time people exert enough pressure on the Kerala government to do what it is reluctant to do – justice.

Over the last few months, Kerala has been in the headlines for cases of sexual violence. Some of the cases reported are from the church. Two recent cases, however, have exposed the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) as sexist and lackadaisical in matters of women security.

One such case is of a Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) leader complaining about sexual abuse by CPI-M member in Kerala legislative assembly, P K Sasi. The DYFI leader has taken up her case with the higher-ups in CPI-M nationally, but no action has been forthcoming yet. To add to her woes, Kerala Women Commission chief M C Josephine has reacted to it by saying, “mistakes do happen”. While the National Commission for Women has registered a case, the buck is being passed between the Kerala Women’s Commission and the CPI-M.

Second is the case of a nun’s complaint against Jalandhar bishop of Missionaries of Jesus, Franco Mullakal. The nun complained in June that she was sexually abused and raped by him between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kuruvilangadu near Kottayam. The police have been investigating the case but the nuns, unhappy with its progress, have come out in the open seeking the arrest of Mullakal.

The church has tried to protect the bishop, who himself is reportedly trying to lure the nun with cash and kind to withdraw the complaint. The Kerala High Court has now stepped in and has asked for the progress report in the case. On the other hand, the affected nun has had to face a verbal assault from independent member of legislative assembly P C George, while the Missionaries of Jesus, which reports to the Roman Catholic Church, has thrown its weight behind Mullakal. It has labelled him “innocent” and termed the nuns’ protests as being instigated by outside forces.

If anyone is surprised by this “we don’t care attitude” of the CPM-led government, then some recollections from recent history are in order. These will show that there is nothing new in the communist leadership discriminating against women and being dismissive of their concerns.

Going into the 1987 Kerala assembly elections, the CPI-M had projected K R Gowri Amma as the chief ministerial candidate. The LDF won the polls with 78 seats but Gowri Amma’s leadership was rejected by the CPI-M politburo. Instead, 70-year-old E K Nayanar was made the chief minister. Remember, he was the same Nayanar who was popular for his comment that “rape is as common in the US as drinking tea”. Finally, Gowri Amma, who belongs to the Ezhava community from which the CPI-M draws its strength, was shunted out and then expelled forcing her to float her own party.

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Nayanar hadn’t finished with his rape comments yet. During his 1996-2001 term, the Suryanelli rape case or sex scandal rocked Kerala. Then his comments on the scandal was “why is there a fuss being made since rape happens all the time”. The prime accused Dharmarajan was a CPI-M worker. The case, in which former deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha P J Kurien’s name was also dragged in, was handled so badly that except the prime accused all the others got away. The poor 16-year-old victim and her family were reduced to shreds, leaving them in tatters forever.

When the Narendra Modi government came out with an ordinance on death penalty to those guilty of raping children, CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat was the first to criticise it. While hitting out at the Centre for the ordinance, she said: “the actual issue is that those in government are defending the rapists." (Her allegation in reference to the Kathua case). Wonder if this was a reference to her own government in Kerala?

Last year, the Pinarayi Vijayan government showed great alacrity in arresting Congress MLA M Vincent for allegedly raping and stalking women. Why is that the communist government is not showing the same alacrity in the case of its own MLA Sasi or bishop Mullakal, in particular since he is trying to scuttle the case?

To top it all, CPI-M’s own leader and former chief minister V S Achuthanandan moved the Kerala High Court in June this year challenging a lower court order that rejected further probe into the Ice Cream Parlour case. Achuthanandan has accused the Pinarayi government of trying to close the case without pursuing it to its logical end.

The church also has not covered itself with glory in the bishop Mullakal case. Last year, the church vehemently protested the rape of a nun in Kolkata by a Bangladesh national. Now, it is trying to protect the bishop. Why this diabolical stand on the part of the church?

In May 2016, when a young girl belonging to a scheduled caste was raped and murdered at Perumbavoor in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, the CPI-M politburo issued a statement:

The politburo demands that the investigation into the brutal rape and appalling violence inflicted on the woman should be entrusted to an enquiry committee headed by a high-ranking woman police official. Immediate steps should be taken to apprehend the culprits and bring them to book through fast track courts in lines with the amendments brought into criminal laws after the Nirbhaya incident. Proceedings should also be launched against those who attempted to cover up the case.
CPI-M politburo on 4 May 2016

Did the CPI-M politburo issue that statement because the state was headed for elections then? Has the CPI-M politburo read its own statements on various such sexual abuse cases. Why not follow their own statement in these cases?

The communist record on women safety remains dismal. It is up to the people to exert enough pressure on the Kerala government to do what it is reluctant to do – justice.

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