Kerala polls: Mother of 2 rape victims fights against CM Vijayan

Kannur: For Dalit woman Bhagyavati, whose name loosely translates to ‘lucky’, fate has been far from lucky. Tragedy struck her life when her minor daughters, aged 13 and nine, were found hanging in Walayar, Palakkad 52 days apart.

The older of the two daughters was discovered hanging from a rafter inside the family’s one-room home near Walayar on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border on January 13, 2017.

Two months later, on March 4, the younger daughter was discovered hanging from the same rafter, sparking widespread outrage throughout the state. The two children were sexually assaulted before they died, according to post-mortem examinations.

Now, Bhagyavati is contesting as an independent candidate from Dharmadam constituency in Kannur district against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the Kerala assembly elections, which are being held on Tuesday (April 6).

As a part of the campaign, she reiterated several times that she is only contesting in her efforts to seek justice for her daughters.

Why contest against Pinarayi Vijayan?

In her interview with Newslaundry, Bhagyavati said: “On October 31, 2019, the chief minister had assured me three things: First, all culprits will be arrested; Second, action will be taken against the police officers who tried to sabotage the probe and third, the case will be handed over to whichever agency we’d chose.”

She further said that she had believed him until the deputy SP MJ Sojan (the investigating officer who allegedly misled the case) was promoted.

“Those who killed my children should get punished and I want to expose the officers who let them go free. I have knocked every door I could, yet I haven’t received any justice,” she said.

“I am not afraid of anyone or any party since I am not here to grab anyone’s seat. I am here only to seek justice and send a message across to this government that denied justice to my minor daughters,” the ‘Walayar mother’ said.

Earlier in February, Bhagyavathi tonsured her head to protest government apathy and vowed never to grow her hair until justice was served.

Bhagyvati never stepped Dharmadam, until the day nominations were filed. “My contest here is by and large a protest against the Chief Minister, who backtracked from his earlier promise of ensuring us justice,” she said.

Bhagyavati’s campaign

Bhagyavati, a school dropout, works as a daily-wage labourer for a living even as she campaigns in Chakkarakal Bazar, a small town in Dharmadam. She is accompanied by her husband Shaji and their 12-year-old son Shibu.

Half a dozen human rights activists from Kerala are coordinating her campaign. In the open, Bhagyavati displays the clothes, slippers, and anklets of her two daughters. Incidentally, Bhagyavathi’s election symbol is a small frock.

Bhagyavathi’s election symbol is a small frock.

The activist said that some people are hostile against her campaign and even tore her campaign pamphlets. “I have no hidden agenda,” Bhagyavati says.