Thiruvanathapuram: A massive protest is presently on outside the Kerala State Assembly here against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien over his alleged involvement in the 1996 Suryanelli rape case.
The angry protesters, who are firm on their demands for Kurien's resignation, have demanded a reinvestigation into the entire case. The protesters also burnt Kurien's effigy outside the Kerala Assembly to vent their ire over the entire incident.
Scores of police personnel, who have been deployed outside the Kerala assembly here to avoid any untoward incident, used water canons to disperse the angry protesters.
Demanding a reinvestigation into the 1996 Suryanelli rape case in view of a charge levelled against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien by the victim, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Brinda Karat had earlier on Wednesday said the former should step down from his post, and demanded that there must be a reinvestigation since there is fresh evidence in the case.
"And, while the reinvestigation is going on, I think that Professor Kurien should step down from his post. He should resign from his post. And I appeal to all the women MPs to look at this case not through a party lens, but through the issue of a dignity of a woman. The Rajya Sabha is going to discuss the ordinance against sexual assault. Can you have in the chair a person who has been accused for the last 17 years by a victim? So, let there be a reinvestigation into the case," she told media in New Delhi.
Karat said the victim has from the beginning recognised one of the persons as being Professor Kurien.
"Now, there is no political axe for that girl to have ever used his name unless she was absolutely convinced that he was. And she has spoken to me and I am absolutely convinced that a reinvestigating is required. Professor Kurien is now claiming that he has been exonerated by all the courts; that is actually misleading this country because the three witnesses who said that they had seen him in that vicinity were never questioned by anybody. And Professor Kurien came straight to the Supreme Court to quash it and the Supreme Court why they did it, we don't know," said Karat.
"But the Supreme Court heard Kurien, they never heard the girl, they never heard the victim, they never asked the victim to come and question her as to why she had given his name. So, in those circumstances since today there is fresh evidence since two of the important witnesses have stated that the timing, which had been earlier stated, was quite wrong," she added.
More trouble for Kurien?
Meanwhile, KS Rajan, a key witness whose testimony was key to Kurien's acquittal, has now retracted his statement, a report on CNN-IBN said. Rajan has now said that his statement that placed Kurien away from the scene of the rape was not recorded correctly. "My friends took me to the bank and very casually asked if I had not met him there or not on that day. I said yes, which is all I said, nothing to protect him," Rajan said.
PJ Kurien has also sought time to meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The attempt to meet Sonia Gandhi comes hours after the Suryanelli rape victim's mother wrote to Sonia asking her to intervene in the interest of justice for her daughter. She asked the Congress chief ensure Kurien does not chair the Rajya Sabha when the bill on sexual violence against women comes up in Parliament.
It was also reported that a decision on Kurien will be taken at a Congress Core Committee meeting this evening.
Political conspiracy before elections: Kurien
Kurien had earlier on Tuesday rubbished all the allegations being levelled against him in connection with this case, and alleged that the CPI-M had raised it to gain political mileage in the upcoming polls as they had done in the past.
"There is political conspiracy from the left parties because parliament election is there and they can use it. When they first raised the allegations, it was 1996 elections, immediately before the elections. After the inquiry, they dropped it and again it was raised immediately before the 1999 elections as a private complaint," said Kurien.
"All the witnesses have been questioned thrice by three inquires. They have given their statements. If they have changed you better go and ask them why they changed it today after 17 years," he added, while claiming his innocence.
Kurien's name figured again in connection with this case after the victim wrote to her advocate in Delhi to explore the possibility of filing a review petition, seeking a fresh probe against the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman.
The girl has also written a letter to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Leader of the Opposition, VS Achuthanandan, demanding the probe against Kurien be reopened.
Chandy had earlier urged the media to refrain from linking Kurien to the Suryanelli sex scandal, saying he has been exonerated by two previous state governments and the Supreme Court from the charges. Achuthanandan has, however, demanded Kurien's resignation in the wake of statements from the victim.
A total of 42 men were accused of raping the 16-year-old girl, who hailed from Suryanelli in Kerala's Idukki District. Brutally raped for 45 days, she was then told by the perpetrators to return home and keep mum.