THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien, despite having been exonerated by the Supreme Court, finds himself in the unenviable position of having to defend himself against allegations of rape committed 17 years ago.
This comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court setting aside the Kerala HC's acquittal of 35 people accused of raping a girl from Suryanelli village in Kerala's Idukki district in 1996.
Following the SC verdict, the girl demanded a fresh investigation against Kurien - which snowballed into a political controversy because the Left Front and a section of the media had launched a campaign for his resignation.
There has been a series of protests outside the Kerala State Assembly, where protesters are demanding Kurien's resignation and a reinvestigation into the entire case.
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From burning Kurien's effigy to shouting slogans, protesters and eminent leaders like Brinda Karat have asked: "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."
Reacting to the uproar, Kurien says that he is innocent and pointed out that the High Court and the Supreme court has exonerated him yet he finds it difficult to understand why is he being called a rapist.
Refusing to step down from his post, Kurien told India Today: Why should I step down just because I face certain allegations? Who does not face allegations from Prime Minister onwards?
Kurien 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.
India Today quoted him saying: "All of them are just allegations. They even defy common sense. Can you imagine a Central minister coming all the way from Delhi to his own land where everybody knows him, rapes a poor girl already subjected to mass rape at a village guest house, located in a crowded market at 7 pm!"
What is the Suryanelli sex case?
The horrific Suryanelli sex case occurred in Kerala's Idukki district Jan 1996, when a 16-year-old was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor. She was sexually assaulted for 45 days by 42 men, and then threatened with dire consequences if she spoke of the incident, before being allowed to return home.
In repeated statements, the victim has claimed that P.J. Kurien was among the men who abused her 17 years ago.
The Supreme Court Jan 31 ordered a retrial in the case, setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused.
As the victim and her parents repeat that Kurien got away lightly, without being so much as named among the accused, thanks to his political clout, the Left has rushed to draw mileage from the accusations.