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“Will protest across Kerala with my head shaved till justice prevails,” mother of Walayar sisters

Two minor sisters from Walayar, Kerala were found dead at their home in 2017. The autopsy report revealed the girls were sexually assaulted and killed. More than 3 years have passed, the family of the victims is still fighting for justice.

Samar Ali, TwoCircles.net 

Kerala: Family of two Dalit girls from Kerala, who were allegedly raped and killed in 2017 in their hometown of Walayar, have vowed to continue their fight for justice. In a recent protest that erupted in the district of Pallakad in Kerala, the mother of the two girls Bagyavati vowed that she would “launch an indefinite protest across Kerala till justice is served.”

The family of the Walayar girls is demanding action against the accused. The family also demands the state government take action against the police officers who ‘failed to properly investigate the case’, leading to the acquittal of the accused.

Bagyavati said that she will end the sit-in protest on the day when the Kerala government announces Assembly elections. “After that, I will lead this protest across Kerala with my head shaved until justice prevails. I will keep my head shaved till action is taken against those officers,” she said, adding that the government has time till the elections to act according to the word it gave her.

Gomati Augustine, an activist heading Penbalai Orumai was part of the protest. Gomati started her hunger strike on February 6, in solidarity with the ongoing protest for justice for Walayar girls. As per her, on day 6, the police tried to forcefully end the strike by arresting her and removing other protesters from the site. She refused to accept the medical care provided by the DMO.

“What we need is justice, not some I.V or first aid,” said Gomati.

Gomati raised concern with the government’s stand and urged for quick action.

Backed by Walayar Samara Samiti (WSS), the protest began on January 26, led by the girl’s parents Bagyavati and Shaji. “Chief Minister has promised that he will do all the needful until we get justice. But here we are protesting even after 3 years,” Bagyavati told TwoCircles.net.

Earlier, the Kerala government had decided to transfer the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on January 12, after the parents had expressed a loss of faith in the probe by the state police.

The transfer of the case to CBI came after the Kerala High Court ordered a retrial in the case on January 12 as the special POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) court in Kerala had acquitted all the accused in the case citing lack of evidence in October 2019.

Speaking about the transfer of the case to CBI, Mariyappan, the head of the Walayar Samara Samiti said the, “CBI has only registered a case concerning the rape and murder of the elder sister.”

“They have not taken note of the case of the younger girl,” he added.

The Walayar Samara Samiti questioned the State Home Ministry for not taking action against the police officers M.J. Sojan and Chacko. As per the Samiti, “M.J Sojan, the then Deputy Superintendent of Police was promoted as Ernakulam Crime Branch SP after the incident.”

The family of Walayar girls has accused M.J. Sojan of misleading the case during the initial inquiry and protecting the culprits.

Walayar twin rape and murder

The minor girls, aged thirteen and nine, were found hanged in their one-room house at Walayar, Pallakad in Kerala, 52 days apart. The 13-year-old was found on January 13, 2017, and her younger sister on March 4, respectively. The autopsy reports found that the sisters had been sexually assaulted. After the elder girl was found dead on January 13, 2017, the younger sibling reported to police that she saw two men leaving the house with their faces covered. The police, at that time, did not make any arrests and concluded it to be a case of suicide.

On March 5, 2017, the younger girl was found dead in the same manner, causing massive protests. Under public pressure, the police arrested five persons, including a juvenile. However, the prosecution failed to submit strong evidence against the accused which led to their acquittal by the POSCO court of Palakkad district in October 2019. The Kerala government filed an appeal in the Kerala High Court challenging the acquittal of the three accused, calling the POCSO court’s verdict, ‘absolutely perverse and wholly unsustainable’. A day after, the government decided to set up a judicial investigation into the case.

The division bench of Justices A Hariprasad and MR Anitha at Kerala High Court, hearing the case, set aside the POCSO Court’s order and allowed the mother’s and state government’s appeals. The High Court declared serious lapses in the investigation and asked the three accused to appear before the special court on January 20.

However, the family of the slain sisters expressed resentment against the way the case was handled by both the POCSO court and the state police, and demanded the state government punish the accused and take action against the erring police officers.