The gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua has snowballed into a unique campaign against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Sangh Parivar in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
The saffron party, which is gearing up for a show of strength in the upcoming bypoll in Chengannur ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is rattled by a poster campaign calling for the ban of partymen in houses with young girls.
The campaign, which originated at Vamanapuram in Thiruvananthapuram district on 13 April with posters pasted on the gates of several houses banning the entry of BJP workers, soon spread to different parts of the state.
A printed poster pasted on the gate of a house at Kalamachal in the state capital read: "Sanghis not welcome in this home. There are small children here."
A similar poster was also found outside an Anganwadi (childcare centre) at Cherthala in Alappuzha district. But what has caused concern in BJP circles is the appearance of different versions of the poster in poll-bound Chengannur. The posters warned the partymen from entering houses seeking votes.
"This house has girls aged less than 10 years. BJP workers may please not enter here asking for votes," said a poster that appeared in front of a house at Puliyoor area in the constituency.
Another poster in the area says: "Leave your leaflets seeking votes outside the gate, we have under-10 girls in the house."
A Times of India report said that the posters were removed by the police following intervention by local BJP leaders.
However, PS Sreedharan Pillai, BJP candidate at Chengannur, feigned ignorance about the poster campaign in the constituency. He told Fistpost that the posters had not come to his notice.
The BJP leader said that the campaign may have been launched by Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers out of frustration. The party has been indulging in dirty tactics after a state intelligence report placed it in the third position at Chengannur.
"The campaign will not have any impact in the by-election. The people at Chengannur are disenchanted with both the fronts. We secured 42,862 votes in the 2016 elections. We are confident that we can win this time,” said Pillai, who is a former state chief of BJP.
However, the party has been put on the defensive with social media picking up the campaign in a big way. Photographs of the posters in Chengannur as well as other parts of the state have gone viral on social media. They are being widely shared on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag 'BalatkariJanataParty'.
Links of media reports listing cases involving BJP leaders across the country have also been posted on Twitter. A November 2013 Times of India report regarding the arrest of Sringeri BJP MLA DN Jeevaraj in poll-bound Karnataka topped the list.
The poster campaign learnt to have originated after a private bank employee known for his RSS affiliation justified the rape and murder of the minor Kathua girl. Vishnu Nandakumar, working as assistant manager of Kotak Mahindra Bank at Palarivattom branch in Kochi, had tweeted: “It is good that she was murdered at this young age. Else, she would have grown up to be a suicide bomber.”
Nandakumar's remark invitean d angry response from hundreds on social media. They started a campaign for his removal under hashtag 'dismiss_your_manager'. They also bombarded the bank’s branches in various parts of the state with calls, seeking his removal from service.
As the bank’s rating in its Facebook started dipping, the bank terminated Nandakumar and condemned the remark. "We have terminated Nandakumar from the services for poor performance. It is extremely disheartening to see such comments being made in the aftermath of such tragedy by anyone. We strongly condemn this statement,” a post on the bank's Facebook page said.
The rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl in Kathua evoked strong protests from all sections of people in the state as well. Joining a midnight protest staged by Congress president Rahul Gandhi at India Gate in New Delhi, the party's Kerala unit organised meetings across the state on 13 April.
The pro-Muslim Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) also staged protests in different parts of the state condemning the incident and demanding justice for the victim’s family.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a post in his Facebook page that the ghastly incident has made the entire country hang its head in shame. He said that what the child had experienced would enrage and move any human being to tears.
"It was not the rape and killing alone that mattered, the reasons that led to such a ghastly incident were also equally important. The little girl was raped and killed in the name of religion. It shows the dreadful situation in the country under Sangh Parivar rule," he said.
The Kerala chief minister also said that those who used a temple for such activities and the Sangh Parivar forces who support it were leading the nation towards dark ages of brutality. "Sangh Parivar is being driven by pseudo love for religion and pseudo nationalism," he said.
Meanwhile, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan countered him by lodging a complaint with Director General of Police against the chief minister for revealing the name and photograph of the rape victim over the social media.
He alleged that the chief minister had violated the Supreme Court guidelines in this regard not because of his ignorance but in his anxiety to give a communal colour to the incident. "This will not work. The Jammu and Kashmir government has taken exemplary action in the case," he added.
Pillai has also questioned the motive behind the current wave of protests over the incident saying that it had taken place in January and the accused were arrested in February. The protests have erupted after the chargesheet was filed.
"The protestors should hail the Jammu and Kashmir government for filing the chargesheet within 90 days. This will prevent the accused to get bail,” he said adding that the people in the country will see through the game and continue to back the party.
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Updated Date: Apr 14, 2018 17:29:36 IST