Kerala Rape-Murder Sparks Widespread Protests

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy visited the mother of the Dalit woman who was raped, tortured and murdered in Kerala last week.

A file photo from a protest in India following the gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi. Credit: REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder.

A file photo from a protest in India following the gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi. Credit: Reuters.

Kochi: As hundreds of people took to the streets in Kerala on May 3 to demand a speedy investigation into the rape, torture and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit law student, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today visited the victim’s ailing mother, who has been admitted to a hospital in Perumbavoor. He assured her that the culprits would be brought to justice at the earliest.

He also said that steps would be taken to provide a government job to the victim’s sister in order to support the family.

Dismissing suggestions that the case has been weakened due to the delay in arresting the culprits, Chandy said, “Nothing will block strong legal action. I assure you (that the) government will take it as a very serious thing and we will book the culprits and bring them before the law.”

The victim was found dead in her home by her mother, with deep wounds on her body. Her post-mortem report, which confirmed rape and murder, also says that the perpetrators attacked the woman with a sharp object, inflicting grave injuries.

Ernakulam Range Inspector General Mahipal Yadav has said there were signs of strangulation, smothering and 13 injuries on the woman’s body, including her neck and chest.

So far, three persons have been taken into custody by the police for questioning in connection with the crime, but no formal arrests have yet been made. The police have said that two of the people detained were neighbours of the victim.

Women’s rights activists and political leaders across party lines have voiced concern over the murder.

“At least 35-40% of families in Kerala are headed by women. Even the mother of this young Dalit woman was bringing up two daughters in a vulnerable space with no security,” J. Devika of the Centre for Development Studies in Trivandrum told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“That is disturbing and as is the fact that no one cared until it hit the headlines five days later,” Devika said.

The incident has triggered intense politicking in the state ahead of the May 16 state assembly elections.

Close on the heels of this incident, another Dalit woman was allegedly raped in the state. The 19-year-old victim, a nursing student at Ayanthi in Varkala, was allegedly raped by an autorickshaw driver who was known to her, along with two of his accomplices. A case has been registered against three persons on the basis of the victim’s complaint and investigations are on, police said today.

(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)