A voter in Dharmadam constituency in Kannur district who is an auto driver I met, shared some of his observations from the ground regarding the upcoming Kerala Assembly elections. According to him, people listens to Bhagyavathi, responds to her and are identifying her candidature as a real battle. Bhagyavathi, a mother of the two Dalit girls found raped and dead in Walayar in Palakkad district under suspicious circumstances in 2017, is contesting polls against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Frock symbol is Bhagyavathi’s polling sign. It stands for her two daughters. The voter was sure that Bhagyavathi would get a good number of votes.
“Even when focusing mainly in the Dharmadam constituency, my aim is to reach three and half crores of people. Instead of holding Neeti Yatra till Thiruvananthapuram, I decided to use this opportunity to speak to the people of entire Kerala,” Bhagyavathi told Maktoob during the final campaign rally in Chakkarakkallu town, on Saturday.
The rally quite evidently held up the question of caste. To challenge the sexual abuses crimes that is happening in Walayar, Bhagyavathi speaks about how and why the acquittal of accused in POCSO cases is recurring. It is informed through an RTI that there are around 45 POCSO cases registered under the Walayar police station jurisdiction. In twelve cases among this, the accused are acquitted. Bhagyavathi’s campaign stresses upon this fact.
“It must be a question for you why I come to Dharmadam from Walayar. It has been four years since I lost my daughters. On October 31, 2019, I met Kerala Chief Minister when he assured holding my hand that all the accused will be punished, and the state will accept the family’s demand for an agency to investigate in the case. I trusted his words. I had ultimate trust in CM’s words until DySP Sajan got promoted in service. I did my votes for CPIM for long. I liked the party and trusted it. The accused, which include CPIM members are protected, I would like to know why I’m not protected when they are. I question, where the assurance was while investigating officers DySP Sajan and SI Chacko were given promotion,” she said.
She further asked: “Why is this injustice upon us? because we are Scheduled Castes or is it because we are daily wage laborers? This is an opportunity for me to ask this question.”
She claimed that the DySP Sojan repeated that my daughters liked sexual intercourse to happen often.
M J Sojan, who investigated the case, is now a Police Superintendent and has been recommended to be conferred IPS.
“DySP Sojan asked my husband to give statement ‘admitting’ committing this crime, and said “lots of fathers are doing it, I will protect you”. This government is protecting such a police officer. Even when the Court and the government admit the crime, why he is being protected? What is the party going to lose in removing these two accused? Why is DySP Sajan attempting to protect them? We are asking all these questions but nobody is answering. What I have to tell you all is, none of you must go through the situation we are in. I will not ask you not to vote for a particular party, but each of your votes must be for justice. None of you must have to go through something like this. Each of your votes must be casted for justice,” Bhagyavathi said.
“Currently, Kerala is witnessing a pathetic political situation,” Dalit activist Santhosh AK said that when a claim of No.1 Kerala model is celebrated, crimes against the marginalised communities are at rise even during this government.
“18 years old Vinayakan who, while speaking to his girl friend, was picked up by the police and tortured in custody criminalising that he pierced his ear and grown hair long. When his relative approached Vadanappally police station to report this crime, pointing out custodial torture, the police told him it was Vinayakan’s father who abetted him to suicide. The police threatened that in the FIR they can add it too,” says Santhosh.
“There are thousand youngsters in the streets of Kerala who are hunted without justice, peace and security. That is painful. It was Dr BR Ambedkar who assured the citizens’ right to vote in 1936, but no one acknowledge the fact. Most of the political parties hate to even utter his name.” he said.
Bindu Kamalam, who accompanies Bhagyavathi in the protests, said that the reason why a major number of women are not joining Bhagyavathi’s movement is her caste.
Kamalam had shaved her head in support with Bhagyavathi along with Dalit Human Rights Movement leader Seleena Prakkanam.
Bindu Kamalam said her participation in the protest is to ensure future generations of women a better world. She also pointed out that the collective spirit of few people’s constant follow up and keenness to keep the protests alive helped them to gain this momentum today.
“We know very well that the experience of Bhagyavathi isn’t an isolated one,” advocate Aparna who is based in Kannur said that the Walayar case isn’t the first of this kind in Kerala’s past.
“This method of using the police system to destroy evidences and undermining such cases is in practice for decades now. We must stand with Bhagyavathi. The state can’t always silence mothers like her. No political party is interested to initiate in law making in ensuring safety from crimes against women,” Aparna said.
Advocate Vinod Peyad, one among the protest committee members says, “We are getting seaports and airports. But human development had never happened in Kerala. What did the Kerala people give to Bhagyavathi? What did the institutions give her?”
The Congress has fielded C Raghunath, while the saffron party is fielding its senior leader CK Padmanabhan to take on the Chief Minister in Dharmadam.
Vijayan had garnered 87,329 votes, 56.62 per cent of the total votes polled, against his nearest rival who could win only 50,424 votes in the stronghold of the Marxist Communist party, Dharmadam Assembly during the 2016 Assembly polls.
Mrudula Bhavani is a journalist from Kerala.