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Kerala nun rape case: CPM says protest seeking arrest of bishop Franco 'politically motivated' to tarnish Left govt

CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Thursday termed the 'ruckus' around the protest led by the five nuns at Ernakulam as ‘politically motivated’ and ‘designed to tarnish the image of the Kerala government’. “There is no need for such a ruckus when an arrest will surely be made if the crime has been committed, investigation is ongoing,” he said.

Reacting to the allegations, Sister Anupama told Firstpost that such a statement from the ruling party's state secretary is very painful. "We aren’t doing this for ourselves. This is for all the women who have been victims of the system,” she said stressing on that fact that the people who have been participating in the struggle everyday are from different socio-religious backgrounds.

“We were feeling really vulnerable because of all this delay but are strengthened by the unprecedented support we’ve received. There is no politics behind this other than that women cannot be denied justice. This is a woman’s issue,” she added.

File image of Bishop Franco Mulakkal. ANI

File image of Bishop Franco Mulakkal. ANI

Balakrishnan reiterated his stand in the CPM newsletter Deshabhimani published on Friday as well. In an article titled Bishop caseum stree suraksha nayavum (The case of the Bishop and women’s safety policy), Balakrishnan elaborates that while he thinks that the protest by the five nuns will bring changes within the church, he strongly feels that the support pouring out towards the protest by the nuns is to further the vendetta against the LDF- and the CPM-ruling government. He also said that all legal processes are being followed.

Writer and activist Rekha Raj says that a protest wouldn’t have been necessary if action was taken on time. "Why is there a three-month delay?" Further, she says that she saw all kinds of groups at Vanchi Square at Ernakulam, where the protest is ongoing. "I saw unaffiliated student groups, support groups from across religions, individuals from different walks of life at the protest. Many, including young students, were there... The CPM dismisses all forms of dissent by giving it different brands like Maoist-influenced or politically-motivated."

It is pertinent to note that the Catholic nuns decided to launch a public protest in Ernakulam on 9 September because action wasn’t being taken by the Kerala Police in spite of the rape survivor nun’s complaint in June. An FIR was registered at the Kuravilangad Police Station against Franco Mulakkal on 28 June 2018. Franco was charged under Section 342, 376 (2)(k), Section 377 and 506 (wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation). The Kerala Police summoned Mulakkal for investigation only after they came under pressure, following the protest led by the nuns. No action was taken before this, in spite of repeated plea’s on the part of the rape survivor.

As Franco is interrogated for the third day, Kottayam SP Harishankar told the press that he is unsure if an arrest would be made today. "Nothing can be said as things are not yet clear,” he said.

"There can be no delay in the arrest following an FIR being registered involving commission of heinous crimes. This is not an economic offence for the parties to be interrogated like this. All interrogations should happen after arrest," says Raghu, a criminal lawyer from Karnataka.

The Supreme Court and various high courts have held at various points that the police cannot delay arrest in cases such as these and has pulled up police officials in different cases including the Unnao and Dabra rape cases.

"Such an unfortunate statement by a party president is condemnable. If he is so worried about the image of his party, why did they not take swift action? Why do most of them conjure up these theories only when it comes to rights of women, especially in a case of sexual abuse within an institution?” says Varsha Basheer, an affiliated faculty at University of California, Berkeley.

Rekha Raj believes that the ones who are actually politically motivated is the CPM. "The reason the CPM-led government is hesitating so much is because they don’t want to antagonise the dominant Syrian Christian community who is a major vote bank for them."

She also adds that it is ironic that the party is talking about following legal process when they have already failed to do so in a similar case. "What legal process are they following in the sexual assault complaint filed against PK Sasi, who is an MLA from their party? A DYFI leader filed a sexual assault complaint against Sasi, MLA from Shornur, last month. Balakrishnan has stated in a Deshabhimani article dated 4 September that the party is looking into the complaint and the complainant could have approached the police if she wanted to.

The complainant recently alleged that a former woman MLA along with another DYFI leader were trying to coerce her to withdraw her complaint with a promise of Rs 1 crore. "In spite of allegations like this, the party didn’t think it's pertinent to file an FIR, to avoid further delay or erasure of evidence."

Raj says that the CPM is no position to issue sermons on how investigation is ongoing when the fact remains that the police officials involved can be prosecuted for evading arrest of the accused Franco for three months.​


Updated Date: Sep 21, 2018 15:00 PM

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