Teen girls’ death haunts Kerala Minister after 15 years

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on October 23, 2011

When the bodies of Sunaina Najmal and Sibana Sunny, two 17-year-old girls, were found on the railway track in Kozhikode on October 29, 1996, nobody had expected it to turn into a political controversy ever. But 15 years later, those deaths are haunting a senior Kerala Minister who is already trapped in a vortex of allegations of sexually abusing a minor girl in the same year.

PK Kunhalikutty, Industries Minister and Muslim League leader, second largest constituent of Kerala’s Congress-led ruling UDF coalition, is trying to put up a bold face saying that his foes are fighting a losing battle against him over an incident which has no connection with him. But the presence of too many coincidences in the issue is perhaps weakening his position.

The present controversy stems from a petition filed in a Kozhikode court by National Secular Conference secretary NK Abdul Azeez, who has alleged that the police had deliberately refused to probe the incident due to its connections to the infamous since cream parlour sex scandal, which is linked to the charge that the Minister had abused a minor girl.

The police had written off the incident as a case of suicide by saying that they were inseparably attracted to each other. However, people like Azeez hold that they had been forced to take the extreme step after they were trapped by Sreedevi, who was allegedly running a flesh trade racket out of her ice cream parlour in Kozhikode city.

The issue rocked the State Assembly last week with the Opposition creating noisy scenes over a statement by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who had stood behind Kunhalikutty in the sexual abuse case, that the girls’ suicide had no connections with the ice cream parlour sex scandal. Chandy, also holding the Home portfolio, was trying to derail the case, the Opposition charged.

Observers – and also several retired top police officials – say that no evidence has so far come up to connect the girls’ suicide to the sex scandal and therefore to Kunhalikutty but the fact that the police had behaved in a strange manner in investigating the incident is giving rise to speculations.

Kunhalikutty and the Government are now being charged with interfering in the probes into both the ice cream parlour sex scandal and the girls’ death. It is alleged that the appointment of pro-UDF police official K Radhakrishna Pillai, who had on October 10 opened fire on students without provocation, as Assistant Commissioner in Kozhikode is an example of this intention.

Dr Fazal Gafoor, president of the Muslim Educational Society (MES), whose college the girls were studying at, says that the police had never bothered to ask any questions to his mother who was chairperson of the college when the incident took place. The principal of the college also said that the police had never met her or other staff members over the case.

“Sunaina and Sibana were ideal students of my college. They were not “inseparably attracted” to each other as they say,” said Prof Seethalakshmi, who had been principal of the college for the past 17 years. Prof Jameela, head of the department in which the girls were studying, confirmed the principal’s observation.

Petitioner Azeez had presented in the court a CD containing voice records of talks with references to Kunhalikutty’s involvement in the incidents that could have led to the girls’ suicide. The CD’s contents indicated that the girls had died after being blackmailed by Sreedevi, who had allegedly lured them into the sex racket using drugs and other means.

The controversy over the girls’ death has now been triggered just when Kunhalikutty is facing a probe by a special police team into the ice cream parlour sex scandal following certain damning disclosure by none other than his own close relative and former confidante KA Rauf that the Minister had escaped that case by bribing the victims, witnesses and even two former judges.

Kunhalikutty had stepped down as Industries minister from the former UDF Cabinet in 2004 after Rejina, whom he had allegedly abused in 1996 when she was a minor, leveled accusations against him openly. One of the main reasons for the devastation of the Muslim League as well as the UDF in the 2006 Assembly polls was the ice cream parlour sex scandal.

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