The National Commission for Scheduled Castes on Tuesday said it will summon Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose and Director General of Police Lokanath Behera, in the matter of the sexual assault and killing of two minor sisters in Palakkad district in 2017, PTI reported. The commission’s announcement came amid Opposition protests, including a 100-hour stir by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The commission’s Vice Chairperson L Murugan, after visiting the home of the deceased sisters in Walayar, alleged that the police were not showing any interest in the case. He said that while the police had summoned a witness, they did not record his statement. “And some political influence was also there as the mother pointed out,” he told reporters. “How, in a democracy, the prosecution failed to put forward the case before the court?”

The commission decided to take up the case and after a preliminary inquiry, it took cognisance of the matter, Murugan added. “I am going to issue summons to the DGP and the Chief Secretary and going to ask them to appear before the commission at Delhi,” Murugan added.

The elder girl, 13, was found hanging at her home at Walayar on January 13, 2017. On March 4 that year, her nine-year-old sister was found dead in the same manner. Autopsy reports revealed that the sisters had been sexually assaulted.

The case attracted fresh attention when a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences court acquitted V Madhu, 27, M Madhu, 27, and Shibu, 43, for lack of evidence on October 25. The court had acquitted another accused, Pradeep Kumar, earlier for the same reason. A fifth accused is a 17-year-old boy. The juvenile court will consider his case on November 15.

“This is a very serious matter,” Lokanath Behera said. “There is no doubt in that. It’s also an emotional one. Two minor children are the victims. So we are very serious about this.”

However, the BJP attacked the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist). “The police has become the B-team of CPI(M),” BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan said. “The child welfare committees of the state have also become government welfare committees. The government is not trying to catch the culprits. Here they are with the criminals.”

BJP and Congress-led United Democratic Front workers protested on the streets in Thiruvananthapuram against the government. The BJP’s Yuva Morcha marched to the secretariat, but the protest turned violent and the police had to use water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.

On Monday, the Opposition had disrupted proceedings in the Kerala Assembly over the acquittal of the accused. It also demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the case. Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan assured the House that the government would seriously pursue the case, the Opposition staged a walkout.

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