From Palathayi in Kannur district, Kerala comes an ill-suppressed groan of a girl in agony to the conscience (of those who have it that is) of Kerala, when it is caught in a vortex of Covid-borne problems. And this scream of the girl out of unattended pain, when her modesty was molested in a heart-rending manner, has been in the air for nearly a month. And it comes from the home district of the chief minister, who gives precise and even minute facts and figures about Covid every day, and from the constituency of health minister KK Shylaja, who is also in charge of child and women's welfare - both areas which raised the reputation of Kerala to the top of the world upholding 'Kerala model'. And the culprit who brought the nine-year old student of 4th standard to this plight is her own teacher.
When one who should have played a parent turned a monster, the perturbed child feigned headache in the class and tried to bury her face in the books, and tried to keep away from the class. Taking all of this behaviour as an opportunity and tying her down to the helplessness in which her mother was all she had, he chose the off days to summon her to the school to subject her to an unspeakably diabolic torture. Under the threat that the mother would be killed if she uttred a word, she succumbed to him, with the realization that her only reliance was her mother. Literate Kerala should be wondering how it can apologise for this monstrosity. And how can the guilt of it be washed off, with an apathy that shuddered to act in spite of having the most convicing evidence of identity and facts about a criminal? An apathy that stopped short of wiping her tears.
Letting go of the accused who was within arm's reach, those in power questioned the lass in turns with law enforcement agencies at different layers, thus dragging the case for nearly a month. That such a thing should happen during the lockdown would only speak for the sadist system infected with a serious virus that can hardly be cleaned with any sanitiser. A complaint upto the official level of DySP, timely intervention by different political parties, letters to authorities right upto the chief minister, the warnings given to the DySP by the minister of child welfare, who is also the MLA of the constituency, social media outcry by the party that rules the country – the list would be endless of those who provided evidence and witness before th police, magistrate and counsellors who were all party to the repeated interrogation of the girl. But it took nearly a month to nab the 'accused' who was none else than the teacher of the girl's school and a local leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Following the warning by minister Shylaja, the police just withdrew from bringing shame to the government. It is in a case in which the family filed a complaint with the DySP, Thalassery on 16th last month and the case was referred to Panoor police station the very next day, that the arrest got delayed this long. Although in POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) cases, arrest and follow-up action should be taken immediately, that did not happen in this case. Further, persistent moves were made to not catch the culprit and to put the complainants on defence to the extent of examining the mental health of the girl. It was when matters came to such a pass that various parties and cultural activists made vigorous interventions and the case reached the latest turning point.
But all is not over with the arrest of the accused Padmarajan. For securing justice to the children of the school, there is no substitute for getting the culprits sentenced to exemplay punishment. The state government has to display utmost diligence in this. Looking at the chronology of the incidents, the police is in a shadow of doubt. The misfortune that befell two Dalit sisters of nine and eleven in Walayar should not happen to the lass from Palathayi. The 11-year old Dalit girl was found dead on 13 January 2017 in Attappallam, Walayar; and two months later her nine-year old sister was found dead in the same room in the same manner. Post-mortem reports made it clear that both were subjected to ruthless rape. In spite of the unnatural nature of the state of hanging, the inquest report of the younger one having been brutally tortured, photographs of the wounds, clear clues given by their mother about the culprits and statements by doctors, there were clear attempts to save the culprits. The suspects who were originally acquitted due to insufficient evidence were brought to justice under popular pressure. The BJP, who had at that time accused the ruling party CPM of whitewashing the crime, is now in the dock. And there are widespread complaints that it was the pressure of the party in power at the Centre trying to rescue their own local leader, and a police and home department that became helpless before it, let matters get out of hand in this manner. Therefore, in order not to repeat the mishap of Walayar in Palathai and in order to foensure that the police and law take the right course, the state government has to be extremely vigilant. And the people should also be awake with wide open eyes to ensure that the tears of that little lass do not go waste.