The Justice for Walayar Kids Forum, on the third day of its satyagraha has demanded punishment for Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) MJ Sojan, the investigating officer in the unnatural death of two minor sisters from Walayar, Palakkad. The group of activists have been seeking justice for the death of the sisters, one after the other, in 2017. In October 2019, a special POCSO court acquitted four accused. Many across the country flayed the police laxity in thoroughly investigating the case. Their acquittal triggered state-wide protests, forcing the government to initiate steps for a retrial.
“We will continue the protest till we get justice. When an officer like Sojan is investigating a case what kind of justice we would be able to expect from the officers who are probing such cases? The crime in the case of the Walayar kids is the most heinous that I have ever come across,” Laila Rasheed, who launched the relay satyagraha told TNM.
The Justice for Walayar Kids Forum launched a rally on foot called the Neethi Yathra (rally for justice) from the Kerala High Court in Kochi on January 4. The rally reached Thiruvananthapuram on January 22. Following this, members of the forum have been on an indefinite hunger strike before the Kerala Secretariat.
The main demand of the group is to book DySP MJ Sojan. Sojan had even made made derogatory comments about the kids saying that they had enjoyed the sexual harassment.
Following severe backlash, the state government in November 2019 asked for a retrial into the death of the girls— the elder sister was aged 13 and younger nine.
The death of the girls took place within a gap of two months. The five accused in the case include the relatives of the children.
The demands of the activists, comprising citizens and members of Dalit and women’s groups, also include a reinvestigation into the case directly monitored by the court and to punish the accused imposing charges of murder on them.
Further, the forum demands to punish those who allegedly conspired to sabotage the case.
“If society is like this and the system is the one that fails to ensure action on the erring, how can girls be protected and where they would get protection if they are not safe inside their own homes?” asked Laila.
Surendrakumar, an activist who fights against the damaging quarrying in Mukkunnimala panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram, told TNM that a reinvestigation in the case should be under the direct monitoring of the High Court.
“How would women or girls be protected with police officers like Sojan in the system? What is the point of the government conducting a night walk for women with police security when it’s not able to ensure women safety at all? Those who read through the post mortem report of the girls would understand that they were subjected to brutal rape and that they were murdered,” he said.
Activists Professor Kusumam Joseph, CR Neelakantan and Father Augustine Vattoli are among those who lead the protest.
“If Sojan had investigated the case in such a way as to acquit the accused, then there should be someone strong behind the accused, probably a political party or racket. If the accused are not influential by themselves, then the force behind them should be found out. The doctor who conducted the post-mortem of the younger child had written in the report that the death was not a suicide and yet no investigation in that direction was conducted. A reinvestigation even after a judgment in a case is possible as we have seen in Best Bakery case,” Kusumam Joseph told TNM.
She added that in the case of the Walayar sisters, the caste, social and financial backwardness of the Dalit family was exploited in denying justice to the parents of the girls.
If the demands are not met, the forum said that it would resort to intensive modes of protest.