The Bharatiya Janata Party, that does not have much of a presence in Kerala, is now making headlines for its agitation against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Prof P J Kurien in the face of charges in the Suryanelli gang rape case.
One person, whose deposition helped Kurien in the case, which date backs to 1996, is a BJP man -- K S Rajan. Significantly, Rajan has since changed his version and has now taken a stand against Kurien. Though the BJP's central leadership was in support of Kurien initially, with the state unit expressing its support for the ground situation in Kerala it has decided to toe the latter's line.
In an interview with rediff.com’s Shobha Warrier, Kerala BJP President V Muraleedharan talks about why the BJP is now protesting over the issue.
Arun Jaitley once argued for Kurien. Is that why the BJP at the Centre took a stand that was contrary to what the state unit had taken?
Arun Jaitley had taken up this case as a professional. His professional life does not in anyway influence the party.
Murali Manohar Joshi said at a press conference that Kurien resigning as deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha was very personal and he alone should take that decision, while your state unit demanded that he step down…
Though Kurien is the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha this is basically an issue pertaining to Kerala. Perhaps our central leadership might not have studied the issue deeply to formulate an opinion.
So, when the Suryanelli issue cropped up again after the Supreme Court cancelled the verdict of the high court, the agitation started in Kerala and not in Delhi. We decided to be in the thick of the movement.
BJP state secretary K S Rajan's deposition was first in Kurien’s favour. Why did he change his version now?
Rajan says that his statement was altered; what was recorded and told to the court were two different versions. The police should have used him as a witness, examined him in court and made sure that his statement was true. They didn't do any such thing. There was something fishy. Otherwise, the police would not have resorted to this methodology.
That is why we feel that there was a sort of an effort or a lenient approach by Sibi Mathew, the police officer investigating the case. I can also say that there was a conspiracy.
Why do you feel it was a conspiracy?
Back then, I thought it was leniency but now, after seeing all the developments, I feel there was a conspiracy.
Now, Dharmarajan (the lone convict in the Suryanelli case) has said that he had taken Kurien to the Kumily guesthouse where the minor girl was raped. Charley who accompanied Rajan says that it was not on February 19, 1996, but on Februray 18 that they met Kurien. So, the needle of suspicion points to Kurien and we feel there is a conspiracy.
Why did you not protest then?
We had held agitations even at that time when Kurien was let go scot-free.
But one of the persons who let it happen was your party member...
As I said, Rajan’s deposition was misrepresented. He had only said he had met Kurien. That he doesn't deny that even now. The day on which they met is the question. He also says that he mentioned the date on the basis of what Charley said.
But three persons in Kumily say that they had seen Kurien there. That is why we maintain that the police should have conducted a proper enquiry.
Why does the BJP go hand in hand with the Left and agitate for Kurien's resignation now?
In Kerala we in the BJP take up all the issues. Since the Left has a legislative presence, and they are a large conglomeration, their voice is heard more. Their vote percentage if 45 and ours is only 7. Their resources and ours cannot be compared. That is why we don't come into the picture many times.
But this time our voice is heard. We are taking up the issue everyday, and now the Left is on the backfoot as it made an effort to save Kurien, as alleged by VS Achuthanandan. That is why we are noticed now.
According to the Congress, the protests are politically motivated...
That is just wishing away the facts.
The Congress says Dharmarajan is a Marxist party member…
I can also say that the Congress is trying to save Kurien because he is a Congressman. Whether a Congressman or a CPM man, he has come out with certain revelations.
Here, a few new facts have been revealed. One is Charley's telephone conversation about the date. Second is Dharmarajan's revelation. Third is, Rajan saying that his statement was falsely reported by the police. Then the wife of Idikkula (at whose house they met on the day the incident) said that Kurien was there only till 4.45 or 5pm. (This contradicts her late husband’s testimony 16 years ago that Kurien was at their home till around 8 pm.) These four new facts clearly point to the role of Kurien in the whole episode.
I am not saying that Kurien was surely at the guesthouse. What I am saying is let there be a fresh enquiry. But the government is saying it’s a closed case and they can't reopen it.
Kurien was never tried in a court of law. If he had been tried and then let off, we can say that the case has been settled and there is no point in reopening it. Since Kurien was never tried in a court of law, he has to be tried in one. The government is avoiding the trial because he is a Congressman.
What is your agitation for -- to give justice to the victim or to try Kurien?
Of course, we want justice for the victim. Even if Kurien is tried or let off her life will not change after 17 years. But what we want is that such incidents should not repeat. However mighty the accused are they should be tried under the law. The law should be equal for everybody, whether it is the poor or the powerful. When a powerful man commits a crime he shouldn’t be allowed to go scot-free.
All this came up in the wake of the Delhi gang rape. Otherwise, for the last eight years, the appeal has been pending in the Supreme Court.
What is the demand of the BJP now?
Two things. One, let there be a fresh, free, impartial inquiry into Kurien’s role. If the new inquiry finds that Kurien was not involved, fine. But the government is resisting any such demand. We are not saying hang him; we are only asking for a probe.
I don't think a woman will accuse a man for political vendetta. So, when the victim has pointed her finger at him he should step down. That is our second demand. It is not fair for him to preside over the house when issues regarding women are being discussed.
Political parties are only talking about Kurien but 35 others were also let off by the high court in this case.
All the others were tried in the court of law but not Kurien.
Don't you feel political parties are using the girl's name, and what happened to her, as a political issue? Are you people not doing injustice to her?
Yes, you can term it as injustice. Yes, we cannot reverse what happened to her. But when she writes letters to the chief minister and if he doesn't respond positively and sympathetically, it becomes the responsibility of other political parties and activists to take up the issue.
This has been going on for the last 17 years…
Yes, but that is due to the inordinate delay in the judicial system. The appeal was pending with the SC for the last eight years. She should have got justice at the most in one year. It should not have taken 17 years.
Image: Kerala BJP President V Muraleedharan