Well known writer and social commentator, Paul Zacharia is always in the forefront to voice his opinion on the various issues that affect the very social and political fabric of Kerala.
In this exclusive interview with Rediff.com’s Shobha Warrier, he takes a look at the Suryanelli case that is being talked about in Kerala once again, after 17 years.
As a social commentator, how do you look at the recent development in the Suryanelli case that happened 17 years ago?
There was this case which dragged on for years. There was a trial and the special court verdict that went in favour of the girl while the verdict in the high court of Kerala went against her.
As a citizen, I would like to go by the court verdict. So, I would say the girl got justice from the available system here. So, as a citizen, we have to either trust the court for fairness, or simply say that nothing in the country is trustworthy.
As the Supreme Court has asked the high court to re-examine, justice is still awaited. According to the high court judgement which Justice Basant quoted recently, the girl was victimised by a child prostitution racket.
His statement created a furore in the state. Were you shocked by the statement of Justice Basant?
I was absolutely not shocked because I had read the judgement. He has not said anything that was not there in it. Anybody can go to the website and read it. My question is, why were these people not shocked then?
His comments were timely. Today, when things were going in one direction, he was throwing light in a different direction which he had said then also.
When the Supreme Court said, reopen the case and examine it all over again, not a single media person quoted what Justice Basant had written then in the verdict. Why? Because none of them had read the judgement. That is why they are making all this noise.
Do you feel the agitation that is happening in Kerala now asking for Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha P J Kurien's resignation is politically motivated?
I have absolutely no doubt at all about that. I do not know whether Kurien has committed the crime or not and to me, the final verdict is what the court says. But what is happening now is 100 per cent politically motivated.
I also would say more than the political parties, it is the media that is at work. The media is selling what has sex, politics and power in it. Kurien is a big enough fish that such stories about him would sell. It is a story for the media to sell and it is a fantastic story for the opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist and company, and the different groups within the Congress.
Digging up a 17-year-old story and selling it again works well for the media and the opposition.
I live in a state that has a lot of problems -- environmental, social, criminal, political -- It is a mess of a state. So, my question is, is this the most important issue Kerala is facing now? For a citizen of the state, on a particular day, with whom did Kurien sleep, is not an important issue.
An ignorant media that has not even read the previous judgement is selling a story. This is the most irresponsible media that I have seen in my whole life.
So, till an equally interesting story comes up, this will go on. I expect this to die a natural death in the media very soon. Once the legal proceedings start, they will withdraw because that is not news for them.
If you look at what is happening from the girl's perspective, do you feel sad for her?
Not only she, there are at least a dozen girls like her who have been in the middle of the media sex storm. And, all of them had courageously come out in the open to talk about what had happened to them, face the police, witnesses and go to the court.
Once they come out in the open, their privacy has been invaded not by the people living nearby but by the prying media.
So, the Suryanelli girl's life is certainly a tragedy. She must have followed a dream but fell into a trap set by some lecherous men and realised that it was not a dream but a nightmare. After that, she was dragged into this whole storm and she is branded. Who is to be blamed for the tragedy? The society?
No, I will not put the blame on the society. I will blame it on education. Look at the education system on sex and the reproductive system and about man and woman you have in the United States or the United Kingdom, where men and women are not theoretically equal but really equal and where women are not exploited like is being done in India.
Here, children are brought up on myths supplied by religion, teachers and children themselves. Religions are the most important criminals in this.
We are not getting anywhere by digging up the past and burying the present under it.
The other day, Kurien's wife wrote a letter requesting others to think of her and her family. She said that nobody thought of the pain they were going through.
I feel people should think of them, whenever I see a criminal being lead away, I only think of his family-- his wife, his children, his parents, etc. The pain she undergoes is the same as what the girl goes through as you cannot differentiate one pain from other.
The same way someone points a finger at the Suryanelli girl, people will point a finger at the families of the accused too. It is all the same. The family is the biggest sufferer but those who commit crimes do not think of the families.
Do you feel such stories are talked about only because of some well known personalities are involved in them?
Absolutely. The ice cream parlour case without Union Muslim League leader and Industries Minister P K, nobody would have discussed it. Suryanelli case without Kurien would have been just another sex scandal which would not have interested anybody.
It might have been a dead horse right from the beginning. Maybe a one-day-report of 3 cm would have come in the papers. Who is interested in the rest of the 35 accused who are small-time clerks, agriculturists, teachers and professors?
Where is the morality and legality involved when you are building up a case because a politician's name is implicated in it? That is why I said I smell political motivation behind all this.
Picture courtesy: Shobha Warrier