News Karnataka
Monday, October 03 2022

Unscrolling the Suspicion on Sowjanya Case

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News Karnataka Special Report

Bangalore: The Sowjanya rape and murder case which would have almost faded into oblivion due to apathy of the local police and the voluntary transfers sought by CID officials, is once again hitting headlines, thanks to the daring revelation of social activist Mahesh Shetty Thimarodi backbone for parents of Sowjanya in their fight for justice.

The live programme aired by a private Kannada channel with the participation of Sowjanya’s parents and Mahesh Shetty Thimarodi has no doubt created ripples but has also given a new lease of life to the case.

It has been exactly a year since Sowjanya was murdered in Dharmasthala on October 9, 2012.  The police force who was able to arrest the accused in rape cases in New Delhi and Manipal within a few days of incident, failing to trap the real accused in this case even a year  later, has  cast apprehensions about their real intentions.

The  case:

Seventeen-year-old Sowjanya, daughter of Chandappa Gowda and Kusumavati couple, residing at Pangalamane, Dharmasthala, left her college on October 9, 2012 evening and did not return home.  Despite the frantic search by her family throughout the night, there was no trace of Sowjanya and on the following morning her dead body was found besides the road leading to Pangala which deviates from main road, a little away from Netravati bathing ghat.  Sowjanya who longed to relish the delicacies prepared out of new paddy crop at home, was not fortunate to savor the dishes. She fell victim to the lust of some unscrupulous elements. The incident triggered protests and people irrespective of caste, creed and religion took part in the same. Meanwhile, the villagers nabbed a youth who was suspiciously wandering near Bahubali hill and handed him over to the police.  The police registered a case on the youth who has been identified as Santosh, a native of Karkala and made him an accused in the case.  The investigations did not see limelight since then

Suspicion persists:

None in SDM Pre-University College, Ujire knew much about Sowjanya as she was a quiet girl but studious. The entire student community and localite local people  were shocked to know about the murder. Her half-naked body has given clues of gang rape and there were other evidence of a pre-planned murder like her body was in all probability dumped on Pangala road the following morning because if the body been there all through the night it would have been soaked in rain water, but that was not the case. Although her college bag was strewn all over on the way home, not a single paper of the books were wet! Body was found underneath a huge tree, and it’s a miracle that her back had no wounds despite her body lying on top the huge roots that had sprang up from the earth.  Based on all these clues, it’s clear that she was raped and murdered elsewhere and dumped the body at the location.  

Four men had kidnapped her:

It was about 4.15pm on October 9, 2012. Sowjanya was returning home from the college and at the same time a bus belonging to SDM College was passing that way. A woman lecturer saw four men pulling Sowjanya.  The lecturer alerted the driver, who seemed to have said that such things are common in Dharmasthala and proceeded undeterred.    When the news of Sowjanya’s murder spread the following morning, the woman lecturer volunteered to report but was reportedly silenced by unknown forces.  The police have no idea of this lecturer and did not question her.  The mystery surrounds on all these events. 

Police take Sowjanya’s undergarments from her home:

When Sowjanya’s dead body was found, there were no inner garments, giving room for another suspicion.  Beltangady sub-inspector Yogish Kumar who was initially investigating the case, took away a pair of Sowjanya’s inner garments from her home.   When the police fixed Santosh Kumar in the case two days after the arrest he was taken to the spot by the police, while sub-inspector Yogish Kumar was spotted with the same inner garments in front of the media, to prove that Santosh was the culprit. A chit with scribbled mobile numbers that was found on the spot went unreported.  Besides, the police registered false cases on Mahesh Shetty Timarody who led the protest seeking justice in the case.

“Blamed”: The mentally challenged

Soujanya Murder Case

Three to four days after the incident, some of the localites Mallik Jain, Dhiraj Jain and Uday Jain caught hold of a mentally-challenged Santosh Rao who was found in Bahubali Hill near Dharmasthala and handed him over to the police after thrashing.  He was projected as the accused though he was not involved in any crime in the locality since 2 years. When doubts arose over his inability to commit such gross crime, Santosh was subjected to medical test and the vested people managed to get a bogus certificate of his ability.  He was also subjected to DNA test that has not reached the police even after a year.

Timarody leads the protest, Hindu outfits divided:

ABVP and Hindu outfits staged united struggle condemning the murder of Sowjanya.  But, the protests by other outfits were short lived except for Timarody who stood by the cause.  Timarody was known among Hindu outfits in Ujire – Beltangady region.  He was willing to collaborate with other outfits seeking justice for Sowjanya. Its an irony that most of the Hindu outfits have no clear stands in this regard,thereby giving room for doubts.

CID sleuths opt for voluntary transfers

Though massive protests were staged, the investigation into the case derailed. The then state administration led by BJP handed over the case to CID.  The sleuths of CID who realized the sensitivities of the case and the powerful lobby against the probe derailed the investigations by opting for voluntary transfers.  When Sowjanya’s father lodged a complaint with CID deputy superintendent on Mallik Jain, Dhiraj Jain and Uday Jain, none of the officers bothered to interrogate them.

The press conference- a turning point:

The massive protest that was staged by women’s organizations at Mangalore on October 9, demanding justice for Sowjanya rekindled the hope.  It was exactly one year since the murder of innocent Sowjanya took place.  The state level women leaders demanded the law enforcement agencies to nab the real accused.   Sowjanya’s mother in tears urged the authorities to award punishment to killers of her loving daughter.  Meanwhile, a press conference was held here on the following day, along with Mahesh Shetty Timarody, Sowjanya’s parents and uncle Vittal Gowda.

Sowjanya’s mother was in tears when Chandappa Gowda said that when he had gone to the police to seek justice, the police projected him as mentally unsound.

Mahesh Shetty Timarody hoped to get justice even if vested interests kill him. He also demanded thorough probe into all 450 unnatural death cases reported from Dharmasthala. He also said that he is preparing the documents to file Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in High Court.  Vittal Gowda lamented that the sanctity of Dharmasthala is threatened due to irreligious men reigning in key positions.

Land mafia

It is believed that Dharmasthala is an abode of Lord Manjunatha who is known to fulfill the wishes of his devotees.  However, the sanctity of the pilgrimage center has been questioned over the years. The  greed of the temple administration to grab the lands, wherein a crusher unit located nearby Nellingeri in Beltangady taluk has become a contentious issue and is in High Court.  The administration has been trying by all means to grab a few more acres of lands located besides Netravati River, Dharmasthala.  It is said that the land was owned by a family who were accused of stealing gold from Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala a few years ago.  The daughter of that family and Sowjanya were going to the college together daily.  The vested interests reportedly  wanted to kidnap that girl and threaten her family to part away with their land.  However, the fate was so that  Sowjanya was returning home alone on October 9.  The thugs who were assigned the task, in a case of mistaken identity kidnapped Sowjanya, stated Mahesh Timarody during the press conference held in Mangalore recently.

Unscrolling of Suspicion on Sowjanya Case still continues when the rental vehicle owners/drivers were threatened not to carry protesters to Mangalore. The local influential personalities reportedly even threatened the rented vehicle owners/drivers not to ferry protesters from Dharmasthala to Mangalore where a massive protest was held, alleged Shetty.

Electricity black-out, cable operators stall connectivity

When a Bangalore based private TV channel was beaming the live discussion related to Sowjanya’s murder case, there was a power cut and cable operators stalled connectivity abruptly in Belthangady.  The local populace was thus prevented from viewing the sensational story that had occurred in their locality, by snapping power cut.  When the public utility provider MESCOM was queried about the power cut, the officers said that it’s common during rains.

Demand to hand over case to CBI

The case of Sowjanya has become a major issue for almost everyone in Beltangady.  Each one seems to be praying to save their daughters who they fear may meet the same fate as that of Sowjanya some day. Beltangady MLA Vasant Bangera raised the issue of seeking justice to Sowjanya case during the assembly session. Besides, he submitted a memorandum to home minister T J George for a thorough investigation.  He has also mentioned about the callousness of local police in probing the case.  It seems there are similarities between Jessica Lal case of New Delhi and Sowjanya case.  There was pressure to save the real accused, but after prolonged court proceedings, the true killers got their due harsh punishment. Mahesh Shetty Timarody and other organizations are urging the state administration to hand over the case of Sowjanya to CBI for unbiased probe.   If in case, the true killers are saved, they are planning to file a PIL in High Court to nab the real killers.

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