V Bhagyavathi, the mother of the Walayar sisters, is contesting for Kerala Assembly elections from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s seat Dharmadam in Kannur.

Poster of two masks of minor girls
news 2021 Kerala Assembly Election Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 13:22

The fact that V Bhagyavathi, a Dalit woman and the mother of the Walayar sisters, is choosing to contest for the 2021 Kerala Assembly election from the same constituency Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is standing from, is of some significance. On March 16th, during her Neethi Yatra, a statewide campaign demanding action against the police officers who allegedly undermined the case, she declared that she is contesting as an independent candidate from the CM’s constituency Dharmadam in Kannur. The seat is considered a stronghold of the CPI(M) and RSS. She is supported by Walayar Neethi Samara Samithi, (Walayar Justice Forum) an independent collective. 

In January 2017, Bhagyavathi had found her 13-year-old daughter hanging from the ceiling of their house. Her post mortem report indicated that she had been subjected to sexual violence; the police concluded that it was a death by suicide and the media reported the same. Following this, in March 2017, Bhagyavathi’s 9-year-old daughter too was found dead in a similar manner. The child had previously witnessed her older sister’s final moments.

During the investigation of the case, there were allegations that due process was not followed. And that essential evidence wasn't recorded in witness statements by the officers who investigated the case–Sojan, the then Deputy Superintendent of Police who was later promoted as Superintendent of Police and Chacko, the then Sub Inspector of Police who was later promoted as Circle Inspector. When the accused in the case were acquitted, protests and rallies took place and Bhagyavathi even met the CM and asked for his help.

“I feel the government is protecting someone in this case. What else is the reason for no action, if it is not? Why is it difficult for the CM to have a say in this?” asks Bhagyavathi. “I was told by the CM that action will be taken against the police officers, that a CBI enquiry into the case will be ensured. But the CBI started enquiries only for one case. I lost two daughters, not one.”

She further says, “For me, winning or losing the election is not the thing. I want to make use of this opportunity where I can ask the CM some questions. I want to ask him if my daughters aren’t given justice, which girl in this state will get justice?”

In October 2019, the four accused in the case were acquitted by a POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) Court in Palakkad. This led to widespread protests all over Kerala and Bhagyavathi demanded a reinvestigation, CBI enquiry and removal of the police officers who fudged up the case. 

In January 2021, the High Court ordered a reinvestigation in the case after the girls’ mother and the state government moved the court, separately, demanding another probe in the case. 

A fews days later, the LDF government decided to hand the case over to the CBI for investigation. But Bhagyavathi feels that the Kerala CM’s promise of action is still incomplete. 

Bhagyvathi also says that she regrets not reporting the case earlier. “I shouldn’t have let the fact that my family members are involved stop me from reporting the case earlier,” She says never be late to react, and adds that during the Neethi Yatra, she has interacted with a lot of people, “Beyond caste and religion, what connects me to these people is that they might have a daughter,” she says. “These crimes happen to a lot of daughters, but very rarely do the families open up.”

In January 2020, during an interview given to this reporter Bhagyavathi said her family and her had witnessed the sexual assault on her elder daughter. She recollected this while sitting in the same room where the attack had happened. She pointed to the window through which the accused Madhu ran away when he sensed the girl’s father had noticed what was happening. 

When they asked their daughter why she didn't inform them about what was going on, the daughter said they had threatened her with death if she told her parents. The family say they found no premise for her death by suicide and believe she was murdered. And on the day she was found hanging inside the room the younger daughter had seen some masked men running away from the house, and this is why Bhagyavathi believes her younger daughter was murdered as well.

According to Bhagyavathi, the younger daughter had testified to the police regarding this, but along with the statements of Bhagyavathi and her husband, her statement too went unrecorded.

The family accuses the police of omitting crucial evidence. A witness in the case pointed out that during the trial he was not heard in court. There are also allegations that the  officers investigating completely discarded the existence of postmortem reports of both girls and instead slut shamed them and the mother. 

“I will keep my head bald until DySP Sojan faces action. Instead of any action, he has got a promotion,” says Bhagyavathi, who has shaved her hair recently in protest. Talking about why she is contesting, she says, “I am not aiming at defeating any political party. If I win the election by some chance I will continue this fight in the Assembly, if not, I will return to the protest pandal back home.” She finally adds, “This is my final statement.”

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