BJP Tamil Nadu president K. Annamalai is heading a campaign alleging that a Class XII girl student of a Christian missionary-run school in Thanjavur district died by suicide recently “following attempted religious conversion”. The police have denied the charge. In an interview, he asserts that the direction of police investigation is flawed. Excerpts:
Despite the police arresting the hostel warden, how do you say the investigation is not fair?
The Thanjavur police bungled the case from the beginning. They made a quick judgment. I do not understand how the police could comment when the investigation is under way. If someone says religious conversion has taken place, the police should investigate it. The investigating officer, who is supposed to be neutral, should have said that angle should also be investigated. But they are shooting it down from day one.
The School Education Minister and other Ministers jumped in and gave a political colour to the investigation. The BJP was not a party to that.
Was it necessary and proper for you as the State president of a national party to release a video when the police have taken up the case?
I came to know of the case only after the girl died on January 19. I spoke to the locals and saw the video sent to me. I commented on it only after I was convinced that something was missing. It [the release of the video] was required at that time because the people saw the case taking a different turn, and spices were added to it.
I thought that as a responsible person, I should take up the issue. It was not political bickering. Subsequent events also attested to the fact that only after the BJP raised the issue was there some sort of pressure, and the [High] Court has said the video is an admissible evidence, and the court is trying to admit parties to the case.
It is alleged that you released an ‘edited’ video...
It was not edited. The investigating officer has submitted in the court that the voice sample was matching and was not tampered with; the flow of the video was not tampered with.
The BJP is being accused of bringing disrepute to Christian educational institutions...
I studied in a Christian school early on. In this case, some human beings have made mistakes. That person must be punished. Minority institutions have played an important role in the development of the State and the country.
If any mistake has happened in the case, it is my duty to correct. Chief Minster M.K. Stalin was misled and he was not briefed properly about the case. I believe the intelligence wing gave it a religious colour. It tries to play the role of politicians.
As a former IPS officer, is it fair to criticise the investigation?
The girl did not completely disclose what had happened. Only after eight days did her mother come to know that she had consumed poison. Then the school authorities came and tried to pay money to her mother to shift her to another hospital. The first accused was the harasser, and she was arrested. Later, the issue of conversion cropped up. The problem is that the police are not bothered about investigating the angle of conversion and why the girl was harassed.
Muthuvel, who shot the video, is allegedly not cooperating with the police, and he has a history of hatred against minorities...
What I understand from the report of The Hindu is that Muthuvel has submitted the phone and the video to the court. It is the highest degree of cooperation one can expect from him. For further questioning, he has to go through the legal process.
The girl was allegedly harassed by her step-mother. Do you want her to be questioned, too?
All angles should be investigated. Unfortunately, the police have closed some angles. You have ruled out the school’s role. The SP said there was no conversion angle. We would have not taken up this issue had she said the investigation would take place from all angles.
The Chief Minister has said the BJP is resorting to destructive politics by raking up religious sentiments...
The Chief Minister is perturbed. I could see it from his statement. The Chief Minister, who was not speaking about the BJP, is speaking about the party today. He knows the BJP is gaining.
Critics say the BJP did not fight for “Tamil Nadu Hindu girls” who were subjected to harassment in schools run by non-minorities...
It is wrong...we are the first to react. When a girl was molested in a Hindu-run school in Coimbatore, the BJP staged a massive protest. A crime is a crime... The question of the stature of any institution does not arise when a crime is committed. I have never said the [Thanjavur] school should be shut.