In what is a clear break from his usually reclusive style, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has gone on social media to state that any form of sexual assault on children will not be tolerated. The chief minister's post comes against the backdrop of the rape and subsequent death of two minor girls, siblings, in Walayar, Palakkad. In another case, four people were arrested for raping seven teen girls from an orphanage.
"The government views the recent incidents of rape, including those of minors, with utmost seriousness. Sexual assault on children is a grave crime and those who try to justify and protect the perpetrators can only be anti-social elements," Pinarayi said in the FB post Wednesday.
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The comment assumes significance as, in another case involving the rape of a minor by a priest (who has since been arrested), some people were reported to have written an article in a church publication blaming the survivor.
"All hands outstretched with the intend to harm children are that of criminals. They deserve no mercy and the police will take stern action against them," the post added. It was widely shared and had attracted close to a hundred comments at the time of writing this. Some of those comments were simple statements of appreciation but others were loaded reactions reminding the CM of earlier promises which had come to naught.
Some suggested setting up fast-track courts and ensuring complete protection to witnesses so that they do not alter statements under duress. Some comments were on the lines of 'walk the talk.' One recurrent trope was Jisha and the most vociferous plea was, 'no more Jishas.'
The state was embroiled in a controversy following allegations that the death of the second minor could have been avoided, had the police acted in time. The opposition also sought a discussion on the issue and the leader of the opposition tore into the government saying that the police machinery had failed miserably. As if that was not enough, CPM veteran V.S. Achuthanandan, in a typical veiled attack, said the police could have avoided the second death. He also sought immediate financial assistance to the indigent family. Achuthanandan thereby scored brownie points for himself and deftly took a potshot at the party and the chief minister.
Even as every empathy and prayer go to the victims and the family, the CPM's handling of these issues in the digital age has come under public glare. Despite the CPM's self-professed people's party status, the chief minister has been one inaccessible man. Pinarayi Vijayan's public image hardly compares favorably with that of his predecessor who had freely mingled with the masses. The rank and file of the party Onmanorama spoke to discreetly admitted to the missing connect.
Now, it is to be seen how the party's claims in the virtual world are counterbalanced with meaningful action on the ground.
(Views are personal)