Even as New Delhi is burning over the recent gangrape, down South in Ujire, 80 km from Mangalore, people are still seeking justice for the rape and murder of the first PUC student Sowjanya Gowda even though two months have passed since the CID took up the case.
Sowjanya’s body was found in a roadside ravine near Ujire on October 10, 2011.
Though the police have arrested one Santhosh Rao in this case, they were not able to prove anything as at least three more persons who were involved in rape and murder of Sowjanya are still at large. She was returning from her college when a gang allegedly raped and murdered her on a deserted road.
Though this too was a foul and heinous case, the fight for justice never assumed the scale that it warranted. “While we appreciate the police for arresting at least one person in Santhosh Rao, we are at loss of words for the insensitiveness of the civil society in Mangalore towards such a barbaric incident. What are they waiting for? Such criminals to land up in their own backyards?” asked Chandappa Gowda a visibly emotional father of Sowjanya.
“Or is it because my granddaughter lived in a rural place that her life and modesty was less important than that of any girl involved in the homestay attack in Mangalore? The homestay attack got so much support due to the arrest of a journalist and since it had involvement of Hindu fringe groups, but there is nobody who is interested in helping us get justice for the rape and murder of my granddaughter,” said Sowjanya’s grandfather Babu Gowda.
A youth association in Belthangady taluk is perhaps the only organisation that is still keeping the quest for justice for Sowjanya’s murder alive. Naveen Naika, leader of the association, remarked: “We have tried to keep the issue alive in the minds of the people by talking about the murder and putting up hoardings about the issue in towns around Belthangady and Puttur, but we were not able to make headway into making this a people’s movement.”
‘As if it has been forgotten’
Social activist Vidya Dinakar spoke about three cases—the recent gang rape in Delhi, Sowjanya’s rape and murder and the attack on homestay in Mangalore.
“These three cases I have studied deeply and found that two cases—the Delhi rape case and the homestay attack in Mangalore—were top on the agenda of the media. For the Sowjanya rape-murder case, ...there was no activism either from the media or from the social activists. So at this time of nationhood, we should focus more on evolving a society that respects womanhood right from the family level, which was the basic unit of a society. Making public speeches about woman empowerment and equity and picking up random incidents for media hype will not help,” she said.