Over 50 citizen activists and members of Dalit and womenâ€™s groups in Kerala will march together for 19 days to seek justice for the minor victims in the Walayar rape case in Palakkad.
Several prominent personalities including activist Medha Patkar, filmmakers Rajeev Ravi, P Ajith and others from the Malayalam film industry will join the protest in various phases to demand a fair trial for the 13 and 9-year-old victims and to punish those responsible for the botch up of the 2017 case and the investigation.
The protest march is organised by an umbrella forum titled 'Justice for Walayar Kids'. Several activists including Father Vatoli who rose to prominence during the Nun's MeToo movement, environmental activist CR Neelakantan will participate in the march.
"We have several members of civil rights groups, Dalit and tribal rights organisations, women's rights groups and human rights activists participating in the protest. The protest will begin on January 4 from the Kerala High Court premises in Kochi and culminate on January 22 in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. We will sit in front of the Secretariat until the government agrees to meet all our demands," Father Vatoli, one of the organisers of the march told TNM.
The 19-day protest raises several key demands including the immediate suspension of police officers who were responsible for botching up the case, a re-enquiry into the case supervised by the High Court and unearthing the conspiracy behind the subversion which took place in the probe and punish those responsible.
"Our main demand is that DySP Sojan and other connected officers have to be suspended. It is known that they used the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act in order to protect the accused men rather than working towards securing justice for the victims' family," Father Vatoli added. He also said that the protestors objected to the case being handed over to the CBI.
In January 2017, a 13-year-old Dalit girl was found hanging from a one-bedroom makeshift shed next to her house in Walayar, in Kerala's Palakkad district. Two months later, in March, her 9-year-old sister too was found hanging from the same please under mysterious circumstances. Post mortem reports of the two girls clearly indicated that the minors were sexually assaulted. In the autopsy report of the 9-year-old, it also mentioned that the possibility of a homicidal death can only be ruled out following an investigation.
However, the investigation team which probed the death of the first victim closed the case stating the reasons for death as suicide.
In October 2018, two years after the minors' deaths, a POCSO court in Palakkad acquitted all the accused men charged with the rape and abetment of suicide of the two girls. Their acquittal triggered statewide protests, forcing the government to initiate steps for a retrial.
While the parents of the victims have demanded a CBI probe into the deaths of the minors, activist protesting for justice have strongly objected to the same.
"From prior experiences, we have seen that the CBI investigations show negative outcomes as in the case of Sister Abhaya - the nun who was killed in a convent in 1992 which has dragged on for 27 years," Father Vatoli added.