A 70-year old Kerala man's crusade for a gang rape survivor from Bengal

A 70-year old Kerala man's crusade for a gang rape survivor from Bengal
A 70-year old Kerala man's crusade for a gang rape survivor from Bengal
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Keerthi Prakasam| The News Minute| June 9, 2014| 8.25 am IST

In 2011, a 16 year old girl form Bengal had travelled to Kerala in search of her boyfriend. She reached Kannur with two of her friends. But as she was planning to return to Bengal, dejected at not finding her friend... she was gang raped by four men. The girl was hospitalised for almost 8 months as she battled to recover from the pain, agony and scars.

Later, as this 16 year old and her two friends fought for justice, without their knowledge a man named Parameshwaran from another district in Kerala got involved in their case.

P Parameswaran, a septuagenarian from Palakkad, is a former Indian Intelligence Service officer and currently an activist. The gang-rape case which took place in Kannur got almost no attention from the public or the media. Even as the case dragged on for months, it was by luck that Parameswaran read a small report on the case in the Mathrubhumi newspaper in 2013. That was just the beginning.

Parameswaran embarked on creating a buzz about the case, writing to various people including the Kerala Governor and police. He appealed to the court for a speedy trial on behalf of a Palakkad based Senior Citizen’s Forum. Parameshwaran now says he never thought he would get so involved in the case.

“The incident happened in 2011, but the case was still going on. And interestingly, even the media did not lend any support to her. I think this was because she was not a localite and hailed from Bengal. Then I knew something had to be done", Parameswaran says.

But his efforts did pay off, taking his appeal into consideration, the court said the case will be completed in a year and lauded him for pursuing the case. On June 30, in what is being hailed as a “swift” decision, the court awarded life imprisonment to the four men who were pronounced guilty.

The four men who are guilty were awarded life imprisonment and a fine of 4.75 lakh rupees. Of this, four lakhs will be given to the girl, the court has said.

Parameshwaran says that the case took longer than it was supposed to, due to intimidatory tactics that the accused’s defence lawyer used during the trial. The defence lawyer is a well-known figure in Kerala, PS Sreedharan Pillai, former state BJP president and the present spokesperson of the party.

According to Parameshwaran, Sreedharan Pillai tried to twist the case aggressively, “Stories aimed at assassinating the girl’s character were suddenly floated. On top of that they even tried to influence one of the witnesses by giving him MONEY. Luckily, that witness did not take money, and even informed the court about the proposed deal”. He adds that the judge who presided over the case, Shircy Vasu stood her ground despite intimidation.

The case may be over in a lower court, but Parameshwaran is going from pillar to post to raise compensation that would help the survivor. Parameshwaran also was working to get Sreedharan Pillai removed from the case. “That was really important, Sreedharan Pillai’s tactics were questionable, all it ended up doing was to make the survivor feel guilty that she was responsible for the crime that was committed on her”, he says.

He wrote to the Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and also to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, demanding the government remove him from the case, “When the Centre is anti-rape and stands for women’s development, such atrocious character attacks on a rape victim are just not right”, he says.

But soon after Parameshwaran reached out to the Centre, Sreedharan Pillai himself withdrew from the case. Another victory for this man, who set out to help a girl he has never seen in his life.

What is interesting is that till date, even as Parameswaran is reaching out to the Governor and Ministers to bring justice to the girl, he has never met her in person.

“I will be too overwhelmed if I meet her now, I do not know why I got so involved in the case. At first she was a rape survivor, then I found out that she was an orphan too. . .Right now, I am happy that the Lower Court ruled positively,I know the struggle is not over . . . But I shall do everything I can do for the girl. . .”, Nair says.

The girl, who is an orphan, has now been sent back to Kolkata. But as the convicted are getting ready to appeal in Higher courts, Parameshwaran too is readying for the next round of battle.

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