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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Kerala: holy cows in sex scandals

By Mukundan C. Menon

Industries Minister P. K. KunjalikuttyThiruvananthapuram: Admittedly there are few takers in Kerala for IUML leader and Industries Minister P. K. Kunjalikutty’s oft-repeated statement that the present orchestrated campaign for his resignation was “conspiratorially targeted” against the Muslim community. Certain Muslim bodies, like the Jamat-e-Islami, joining the chorus demanding his resignation and ouster from the UDF Ministry kept Kunjalikutty’s claim of anti-Muslim tirade in a piquant position. However, a close perusal of the whole issue of morality versus Cabinet post reveals that he and other League leaders are not entirely wrong in smelling a rat behind the whole episode.

True, morality, rather than legal niceties, demands that none facing such a charge should remain as a Minister. However, Kunjalikutty happened to be the fifth Minister in the present Congress-led UDF Government to face the charge of sexual misconduct during the past three-and-half years. Strikingly, there was none to demand the “moral resignation” of any of these four Ministers. That silence was more deafening than the present orchestrated campaign for Kunjalikutty’s resignation. And, that itself is suffice to justify League stand that Kunjalikutty has selectively been targeted now for attack for his being a Muslim and, secondly, a Muslim League leader. The present campaign, therefore, can even be nick-named as “Kerala model of Islamophobia”.

When A. K. Antony formed the present UDF Government in May 2001, the newly elected cine actor-turned politician, Ganesh Kumar of Kerala Congress (B), was sworn in as a Minister. He became a Minister when a petition of his wife, Dr. Yamini Thankachi, was pending before the Thiruvananthapuram Family Court alleging that she was constantly ill-treated by him because of the concubines he maintains within the city. There was no outcry of morality on this score. 

Within three months of the present UDF Government occupying power, one Ms. Thankam Verma from Pathanamthitta district addressed a press meet to allege that two Congress Ministers, Kadavur Sivadasan and G. Karthikeyan, had sexually exploited her at the Government Guest House at Thaicaud within the city a few years ago. She also filed a complaint before the Kerala Women’s Commission (KWA). None bothered either to execute a moral policing role or to follow the petition. 

A woman from Kannur alleged that another Congress Minister, K. Sudhakaran, elected from the same place in North Malabar had fathered her child. The revelation was closely followed by a physical assault on her brother allegedly by the cohorts of the same Minister. In this case, too, there was no war cry of morality.

Interestingly, a comparative perusal of all these cases would reveal the hypocritical social mind-set in Kerala, which is now reverberating with the single-agenda political slogan of Kunjalikutty’s resignation following the recent revelation of Rejina, the witness-victim in the 8-year old sex scandal at Kozhicode, that Kunjalikutty had sex with her. Her revelation made to selective media persons, however, contradicted her earlier statement given to a local Kozhicode Chief Judicial Magistrate under 164 in-camera sessions in which she gave a clean chit to Kunjalikutty 8 years ago. In contrast with this eight-year old “stale story”, the allegations made against the other four UDF Ministers by their victim women were afresh and remain without contradiction. Yet, unlike the hyped-up media campaign against Kunjalikutty now on the basis of the 8-year-old stale story, there was no “media trial” on the new and afresh sex scandal of these four Ministers. Again, as against the charge against Kunjalikutty was first raised eight years ago by third persons on behalf of Rejina, the three victim-women themselves had directly made complaints against their respective detractor Ministers. Interestingly, although the case first came up when the Marxist-led LDF was holding power in 1997 and the investigation was done under the aegis of Marxist dispensation, Kunjalikutty never figured as an accused in the case so far, nor he received court summons. Yet, there is all out war-cry for his resignation. 

It was this overall scenario which prompted Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to repeatedly maintain as to how he could oust a Minister purely on the basis of a statement of somebody “habituated in changing versions several times over the past so many years”. Although Chandy continues to maintain the same stand despite loud protests, it failed to pacify those who make the orchestrated chorus in uniformity demanding Kunjalikutty’s ouster. They range from Sangh Parivar to Leftist outfits, social bodies from NSS of Nairs to SNDP of Ezhavas, women organizations, electronic and print media, and even Congress leaders like former MP, V. M. Sudheeran, from the faction-ridden KPCC.

But, how far they justifiably claim to be the holy cows of morality to demand Kunjalikutty’s resignation? A close perusal would also reveal that many of them fall out of Jesus’ famous criteria that only non-sinners are entitled to throw stones of moral virtuousness against others.

For example, with both CPM-led LDF and Congress-led UDF leaders being clearly in pitiable condition for their involvement in the murky sex scandals, the BJP was all posed to make the biggest political gains. The BJP also declared to launch an agitation from January 05 until Kunjalikutty resigns. Notably, this was primarily meant to cover up their embarrassment since a BJP leader of Kottayam, V. R. Devadas (47), was arrested as the ninth accused in the Kiliroor sex scandal case. The Kiliroor sex case has become important among all the sex scandals as its victim, 18-year-old Shari S. Nair, died at Kottayam Medical College on November 13 after giving birth to a baby girl three months ago. Earlier, an entire family of five including a temple priest, committed suicide at Kaviyoor area for their connection with the same sex scandal and its madam king-pin, Latha Nair, already under custody. The BJP leader Devadas is charged with sheltering Latha Nair and also for playing a crucial role in finalizing a compensation agreement between Praveen, the second accused in the case, and the girl's parents who are known BJP supporters. With a total of six deaths, or suspected murders, the Kiliroor-Kaviyoor sex scandal has already become the mother of all sex scandals in Kerala. Yet, there was no hype on it, unlike the present political campaign against Kunjalikutty over the eight-year old case.
Ironically, apart from BJP, the faction-ridden CPI(M) is also in a piquant position as some of its leaders, or their kith and kin, are known to be involved in the Kiliroor sex scam. Opposition leader and polit bureau member, V. S. Achuthanandan, is too keen to demand the government to make their names public, along with the names of Congress leaders involved in the same racket, since his sinner comrades are known as belonging to the rival party group led by State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. Incidentally, in the Kozhicode sex scandal, too, names of former CPI(M) Mayor, T. K. Dasan, and former CPI Mayor, O. Rajagopal, figured as accused. This factor had apparently motivated the then LDF Government led by E. K. Nayanar to scuttle the proceedings when the case came up in 1997, which was corroborated now by CPI leader Meenakshi Thampan. Yet, all of them are politically united with BJP to demand Kunjalikutty’s ouster now on moral grounds.

Apart from BJP, Congress and CPI(M) leaders, the names of Asianet chief K. P. Mohanan and his friend “Kuwait” Chandy has been freely floated for their involvement in the Kiliroor case, apart from owner of a famous jewelry group. According to Shari’s parents, Latha Nair had taken their daughter to Chandy’s resort at Kumarakom where Mohanan had allegedly met the girl with promise to let her act in TV serials. Both Chandy and Mohanan had earlier also allegedly siphoned off crores of rupees from the Indian School at Kuwait, which they invested respectively in the resort and Asianet. Ironically, Rejina made her recent revelation on Kozhicode ice cream parlor case against Kunjalikutty at the Asianet studio in Kozhicode to other channels at the initiative of Asianet reporter Ms. Deepa. The real motive and purpose of such an informal press meet at a media office is under question. What is more, while “India Vision” channel headed by Muslim League Minister Dr. K. M. Muneer was the first to beam Rejina’s version repeatedly, Asianet itself did not telecast it on the same day.

The journalist community had genuine reasons to protest against Kunjalikutty for the brunt they faced from League cadres following Rejina’s exposure. Kunjalikutty and other League leaders tendering unconditional apology, Oommen Chandy announcing a judicial inquiry into the attack on media at Karipur airport when Kunjalikutty returned from Mecca, and punishment transfer of four police officials for the Karipur incident neither amused nor pacified them. Therefore, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) organized a protest dharna in front of State Secretariat on November 17. Addressed by all leaders of LDF opposition led by V. S. Achuthanandan, it was inaugurated by former Chairperson of Kerala Women’s Commission, B. Sugathakumari, whose pro-RSS leanings are no more a secret. Sugathakumari also supported CPI leader Meenakshi Thampan’s version that Marxist-led LDF leaders tried to scuttle the investigation in the ice-cream sex scandal case against Kunjalikutty during the erstwhile LDF dispensation of E. K. Nayanar. However, with least inhibitions, all of them were together at KUWJ’s Nov 17 Secretariat dharna against Kunjalikutty. 

Inaugurating the dharna, Sugathakumari said: “Democracy will survive only if the voice of media, their pen and camera remain solidly for moral justice. For, moral justice and niceties are parts of democracy. Nobody should think of suppressing media through muscle power since democratic values are essential for the entire society.” 

This had a corollary in contrast. During the erstwhile LDF Government led by E. K. Nayanar, the same Sugathakumari, as then Women’s Commission Chairperson, was on record singing an opposite tune against the very media. That followed a local daily newspaper, “Southern Star”, exposing her and her daughter’s personal past details in September 1997. She took up the issue to E. K. Nayanar through then Minister for Women’s Welfare Sushila Gopalan complaining that leading social activists like her cannot raise their heads with dignity due to the mudslinging campaign unleashed by newspapers. Nayanar, known for his unwitting impulsive actions, promptly took the issue to the Assembly and produced the “Southern Star” article on the floor of the house and made it as part of the Assembly proceedings much to the chagrin of both Sushila and Sugathakumari. Nayanar also issued directions to the PRD to stop all government advertisements to all such “yellow newspapers” which gave a free hand to the PRD bureaucrats to dictate terms to the media which drew loud protests from press circle, especially from small and medium newspapers. Incidentally, amidst the all out blitzkrieg for his ouster, Kunjalikutty’s present grouse is the same as of Sugathakumari’s 1997 complaint to then Chief Minister Nayanar against the mudslinging media campaign. Many-an-eyebrow was raised when the journalist union brought the same Sugathakumari to inaugurate their Nov 18 dharna on the question of press freedom. Said a wag: “It was the so-called non-political Sugathakumari whose pressure caused stopping PRD advertisements to newspapers in 1997, unlike the present villain Minister Kunjalikutty.”

Incidentally, the then supporting hand extended by Nayanar to Sugathakumari against “Southern Star” exposure is believed to have played a major role in keeping her silent on CPI (M)’s stalling Kozhicode ice cream parlor sex racket case in which both CPI(M) and CPI former Kozhicode Mayors figured as accused along with Kunjalikutty and others. There were other corroborative evidence to support the CPI(M) interest in suppressing the Kozhicode ice cream parlor case during Nayanar’s regime. For example, former CITU leader V. B. Cheriyan, who fell out of CPI(M), demanded on Nov. 19 to include Sivadasa Menon, Finance Minister in Nayanar’s Cabinet, as witness in the ice cream sex scandal case. “At the CITU State executive meeting in 1997 held amidst cropping up of ice-cream sex scandal, Sivadasa Menon said that there was no need to worry about the stability of LDF Govt as steps had been taken to shut the mouth of the IUML in Congress-led UDF”

Sugathakumari who remained silent over the issue during the entire tenure of erstwhile Nayanar government opted to speak out now only after Rejina’s recent exposure to media against Kunjalikutty and when both Nayanar and Sushila Gopalan are no more. Interestingly, she also sent a fax message to Sonia Gandhi demanding dropping of Kunjalikutty from Kerala Cabinet. Extending support to this demand, another fax message sent to Sonia Gandhi on November 9 by three women led by social activist and artist G. Geetha, however demanded a probe into the rape of a Dalit woman by two counselors and the hostel warden of “Abaya” controlled by Sugathakumari. 

According to the complainants, this rape case of the Dalit inmate, Renuka, at “Abaya” Mental Health Kendra, Malayankeezhu, Thiruvananthapuram, in 2002 was believed to have been “suppressed by then Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, to protect Sugathakumari’s “Abaya” as well as the three alleged rapists”

Renuka, mother of two children, was allegedly raped by two counselors and hostel manager of “Abaya” on November 29, 2002, and a rape case u/s 376 was duly registered at local Malayainkeezhu police (No. 462/02) upon her complaint. The fax complaint to Sonia Gandhi further detailed: “Following its publication in local “Thaniniram” daily, “Asianet” TV news reporter, Ms. Deepa, carried the story on human rights day on December 10, 2002, along with interviews of both Sugatha kumari and the victim Renuka. Ms. Mercy Alexander of “Stree Vedi” women’s body issued a statement demanding stern action against the rape culprits of “Abaya”. A meeting to discuss the “Abaya” rape incident was held at “Trivandrum Hotel” on January 05, 2003, under the auspices of “Centre for Dalit Studies. The victim Renuka explained the ordeals she faced at “Abaya” to the social and women activists who attended this meeting.”

It alleged about attempts to project Renuka as a mental patient. “However, examinations held at the Government Mental Hospital under Court orders found her mental health intact”, it said and added: “At the government women’s hospital, Thycaud, three stitches were reportedly applied to heal Renuka’s wounds caused on account of the brutal rape at “Abaya”. Despite all these, nothing had come out of this case so far. We were also aghast that none knew the whereabouts of Renuka and her kids thereafter. As in Kozhicode Ice Cream case, we have reasons to believe that Renuka was also coerced through money-power to alter her initial rape version given to the police by Sugathakumari or those who were associated with “Abaya”…. Only a high-level probe can bring out all the suppressed details of this case so as to award deterrent punishment to the rapist culprits of “Abaya” as well as all those who protect them.”

Interestingly, both Mercy Alexander of “Stree Vedi”, who issued a statement on “Abaya” rape incident, and Ms. Deepa, who reported it in “Asianet”, were now seen along with Sugathakumari agitating in front of Thiruvananthapuram Secretariat on issues related to sex scandals. All of them seem to have conveniently forgotten the “Abaya” rape case as it apparently took place within the precincts of one of the leading holy cows in Kerala’s social circle. Surely, she is the tallest one, being the first to object Kerala Government notification terming RSS a terrorist body two years ago.

Astonishingly, the CPI(M)-controlled “Kairali” TV channel, who is in the fore-front of anti-Kunjalikutty campaign, is also faced with allegation of sex scandal from within. On the wrong side is Kairali’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), V. Krishna Kumar, who allegedly had sexual misconduct within office premises. As the scandal broke out, Krishna Kumar stopped coming to the office from December beginning. A professional, he heals his wounds by remaining at home, complaining that the “party group” within the channel had wrongfully penalized him by making such a baseless allegation. Amidst the overall sex scandal scenario in Kerala, one may aptly like to term this as a sex serial within the Marxist TV channel?

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