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Victim still haunted by rape 16 years ago

Kottayam (Kerala), Dec 31, 2012 (IANS)

Despite all the time that has passed since, there is no respite for the Suryanelli rape victim. Her parents say the ordeal continues to torment the girl, who was 16 at the time of the incident, and is now a 32-year-old woman.

The case came to be called the Suryanelli rape case as the girl hailed from Suryanelli in Idukki district. Brutally raped and treated as an "object of pleasure" for 45 days, she was then told by the perpetrators to return home and keep mum.

Three years later, the tormented girl mustered the courage to talk of her experience, and the names of the high and mighty appeared as a special court named 35 accused and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment. In 2005, however, the Kerala High Court acquitted all but one of those earlier named as accused.

Thanks to the E.K. Nayanar government (1996-2001), the hapless victim was given a job as a peon in the Kerala Sales Tax department. The victim has since approached the apex court. Her case is set to come up for hearing, and she is forced to relive the torment in her bid for justice.

In February this year, the woman was arrested and suspended from her job in what her family termed "a false case of financial misappropriation". When the media picked up the issue, she was reinstated.

Speaking to the media here Monday, the woman's father said: "She underwent enormous pressure in the case which dragged on for years. Yet another case saw her framed as a thief. It is quite clear that some people with vested interests are hell bent on harassing her."

The woman's mother says the whole family is still to come to terms with the manner in which the woman has been treated. A team of Central Bureau of Investigation officials from Delhi took statements from her, questioning the family for two days, in the Sister Abhaya murder case. (In 1992, a Catholic nun, Abhaya, was found dead in her convent at Kottayam. CBI officials arrested two Catholic priests and a nun Nov 19, 2008; all three got bail in January 2009.)

The woman's mother says: "When that incident occurred, my daughter was 11 years old. What had that case to do with her? Why are they harassing us?"  The family of the woman now lives near Kottayam, and are treated by the local community as outcasts. The woman also suffers health-related issues on account of her 45-day ordeal 16 years ago.

The victim's sister, a nurse by profession, has chosen to stay single.  Suja Susan George, a college teacher living nearby, is among the only friends the family has.
"It's sad that while the accused walk free, the victim and her family are being continuously harassed," said the college teacher, who contested the April 2011 assembly polls as a CPI-M candidate, from Puthupally, Kottayam, the same constituency as Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.


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