Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress is under immense pressure to act against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien as the demand for his resignation grows following allegations of his involvement in the 1996 Suryanelli gangrape case. Adding to the Congress's woes, key witness KS Rajan, whose testimony was crucial to Kurien's acquittal, has retracted his statement.
Rajan has now said that his statement that placed Kurien away from the scene of the rape was not recorded correctly. "My friends took me to the bank and very casually asked if I had not met him there or not on that day. I said yes, which is all I said, nothing to protect him," Rajan said.
An under pressure Kurien has now sought time to meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi and is likely to meet her on Friday. Pressure grew on Sonia Gandhi to act against Kurien after the Suryanelli rape victim's mother wrote to her asking her to intervene in the interest of justice for her daughter.
In her letter faxed to Sonia, with a copy to AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi, the victim's mother expressed anguish over the Congress-led UDF government in Kerala refusing to order further investigation in Kurien's alleged involvement in the case. Striking an emotional note, the girl's mother hoped that being a mother herself the Congress President would understand the plight of the victim's family.
Kurien was acquitted in the 1996 Suryanelli rape case, but the gangrape victim has named him as one of the men who assaulted her in 1996. The Suryanelli rape survivor sent a letter to the Supreme Court last week, asking for a review of the apex court's order quashing all charges against Kurien.
Kurien has, however, claimed that he was a victim of a political conspiracy. Denying allegations against him, Kurien has been refusing to step down. Talking to CNN-IBN, Kurien said, "The allegations are politically motivated. The girl is putting the allegations during elections. Where is the moral ground when I went through four inquiries that cleared me. Somewhere there is some conspiracy. My party is entirely with me," Kurien said.
The allegations against Kurien have also been stalling the Kerala Assembly. The Left led opposition in Kerala has begun a campaign for a reinvestigation into Kurien's role following the Supreme Court quashing the High Court's acquittal of all the accused. Kurien, however, has been maintaining that he has never been indicted by any court.
Earlier on Thursday, the Left Front also alleged that its women MLAs were beaten up by the police when they protested against Kurien.
The state government is acting cautiously. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said government has an open mind on the issue and would take a decision on Opposition's demand after getting legal opinion. The Chief Minister's confidence stems from the fact that though Kurien was probed thrice by three different officers, during the term of the CPM led-LDF, nothing emerged.
"Government has sought legal opinion on whether it can reopen a case discharged by the Supreme Court. Government is yet to get legal advice on it," Radhakrishnan said.
The deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, PJ Kurien, was accused and later acquitted by courts for his alleged role in the Suryanelli gangrape of 1996. The Supreme Court had last week set aside the Kerala High Court verdict in the 1996 Suryanelli rape case that had acquitted 36 accused. The apex court remanded the gangrape case of the teenaged girl back to the Kerala High Court asking it to take a fresh look at it.
All the accused on bail were directed by the Supreme Court to secure fresh bail from the Kerala High Court. The Supreme Court also expressed shock over the findings of the Kerala HC that the victim was a willing partner.
In 1996, in Suryanelli, bordering the tea gardens of Munnar, a teenaged girl was raped by over 42 men including a bus conductor and many others. Faced with ostracisation, the victim's family had to leave the village.
(With additional information from PTI)