Listen to what the Suryanelli victim has to say
This can happen to any young woman
The Suryanelli rape victim is making a few revelations shaming the verdicts and observations of the rape case having odd interpretations over her ‘consent.’ The girl opens her heart giving an insight into to the threats of sexual harassment and exploitation the girls in the state are facing at present.
The plantations owned by private parties, intermittent natural forests, a resort which was earlier the office of leftist political outfit, the wholesale and retail outlets of TATA tea. The roads along the Munnar hills will take you to Devikulam and Chinnakanal and to Suryanelli, the place that has found its slot in the cultural map of the present day Kerala; a mark of the nine-year-long protest.
At a time when the Suryanelli incident is again discussed, it is sad to note that the victim’s father has not received the copy of the milestone verdict delivered by the Kottayam special court. The prosecutor, who offered to provide him the copy, later said that it was missing.
When the High Court delivered its verdict, he wanted to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. However, concern writ large on his face whether the SC too would rule against him. “Wish I could hear a favourable verdict before my last breath,” he said.
Suryanelli victim begins her story this way
Being a frequent bus passenger, I knew Raju. He told me that he was struggling to make both ends meet. He said his parents were unwell and has to take care of his sister and was finding it hard to meet medical expenses. The sympathy I felt for him developed into an affection. He used to ask money and I even paid his hostel fees. Gradually, his behaviour changed. He had an album of me and threatened to paste the photos at my father’s workplace if I refuse to go with him. Later he said he wanted to marry me and I left with him on January 16, 1996. After boarding the bus, he took two tickets and handed over one to me. Once the bus reached Kothamangalam he was not there.
I thought of going to mama’s house in Kottayam. The bus reached Kottayam very late and the darkness accentuated my fear. At this juncture, a fellow woman passenger who boarded the bus from Adimali came to me. She asked me whether my name is __. “I know you” she said and also mentioned the nickname Raju used to call me. “If anybody asks you should tell them this name. Also mention your age as 18 years and you are a college student.” Her name was Usha.
As we were standing at Kottyam bus stand, Dharmajan came there and introduced himself. He told me that he knew my mama’s house and would take me there. Usha left immediately. He told me that the bus to Mundakkayam starts only at morning. He took me to the hotel near Kottayam bus stand.
Here begins the Suryanelli case?
How did Usha come to know about the nickname? Why did she accompany her to Kottayam and Dharmajan appeared as the saviour? It all points to the fact that the crime was well organized.
What do you feel about Raju now?
One the case was registered, Papa told me that Raju availed bail with the help of politicos. Later I saw him in court. Whenever I think about the past or his image comes to my mind, I feel rage and hatred.
Raju throw his friend a party the day the high court delivered the verdict, her mother said.
Do you have anything more to say?
I had not thought about the consequences then. Now I can see. Girls of my age should have a second thought and share everything with their parents. My life is an example. Nobody should meet the same fate as in my case.
This is the answer to those who lament that the real love has vanished from our campuses. She had do pay a heavy prize.
The media say the High Court acquitted the accused saying that everything happened with the consent of the girl. We should probe about the ‘consent’ part.
What happened inside the hotel room in Kottayam?
After a while, Dharmajan started harassing me. When I protested he twisted my hand and caught hold of my neck threatening to kill me. He beat me up and harassed me further.
Later he took me to Ernakulam and Kumily. They used to forcibly put a white powder in my mouth and I felt sleepy soon. After tying my hands they poured brandy. Both Dharmajan and Jamal used to do this. They continued to beat me up and inflict pain. Fatigue conquered me often. During sleep, they used to wake me up and would continue the harassment. Once even I tried to hide in bathroom. They verbally abused me, beat me up; kicked and locked me inside the room when they were away. They took me to hotels and isolated houses in Ernakulam, Theni, Kanyakumari and Thiruvananthapuram. Several times, they took me to Kumily. During one such occasion, I saw Baji . He caught hold of my neck and harassed me.
Did they provide you food or money?
I don’t know whether they got money. They fed me once in 2-3 days.
Don’t you made any attempts to escape?
I can’t explain my situation in words. I told everybody who approached me that my papa works in Munnar post office and mama is a nurse. I told them my whereabouts but nobody cared. All of them hurt me. Only a professor spared me. Seeing my condition, he just went back. Though I told police that he spared me but he too was included in the list.
They took me to various places and the ordeal continued. I was so frightened and was exhausted. Whenever I opposed, they threatened to kill me. I am afraid of such persons. They also threatened to kill my parents and I am still concerned over this. There was no point if I returned to see the dead bodies of my parents.
How did you return home?
I was unwell when I reached Jamal’s house at Elappara. I was too tired and was suffering with fever and pain. I could not even stand up or lie down. Urinary infection and acute pain were annoying me. I had back pain too and I thought my end is near. I lost hope of seeing my house again. They took me to a Tamilian doctor in Elappara on condition that I would not tell him anything. When he examined, they were standing around. Then I just complained of constipation. He recommended enema and two-three tablets and referred me to another hospital. However, they didn’t admit me and took me away. That night too four persons hurt me.
I was too tired and they might have felt it was time to spare me. They sent me way on assurance that I should return. From Kottayam they took me to Muvattupuzha at night. I left for Munnar early morning and reached the post office where my papa works. It was February 26.
Where can one find `consent' for sex? She terms the ‘consensual sex’ as harassment. Those who claim that she made no attempt to flee should listen to her mother's words.
“You should have seen the condition of my child when she was back. Only we saw,” she says.
Her father says he came to know about the trial in High Court only when the news about the verdict appeared in newspaper.
When asked about the verdict, her expressions changed.
“Once the verdict was delivered, I could not face anyone. Nobody wants to see my face anymore. A few were afraid to talk to me. Maybe their parents would have told them to maintain a distance. I don’t have many friends. The existing ones are not interested in talking to me. I used to go to the church and office and spend rest of the time in my house. I have nowhere else to go. Relatives have already abandoned me. Even I made life tough for my elder sister."
What is your opinion about the HC verdict?
The High Court should hear my side too. It has so far heard the accused story. I am ready to tell any court my 41-day sufferings. I received a fair amount of justice from the special court after I told my ordeal.
I could not identify few of the accused as they shaved off their moustache and changed their looks. Baji’s name was never mentioned in list. A top police officer had talked in favour of him. Police said there is least chance for him to visit Kumily on that day. If he is spared, similar incidents will be repeated. If voted to power, they will misuse their authority. Isn’t the High Court verdict an instance, she asks?
She is ignorant about the technicalities of court and law. However, she knows that she has been denied justice.
Are you willing to show the world your face?
No. I don’t want anybody to see my face. I hate it and I’m terrified.
Do you ever think of becoming a mother?
I am scared. If I have a child, the world will tell him/her about my past. There is no assurance for a secure future for him/her too.
Do you have a piece of advice for girls?
Now, this has become a collective issue. Anyone can fall prey anytime.