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Thu Jul 31 07:21:54 SAST 2014

Riot police fire water cannon at India rape protest

Sapa-AFP | 08 February, 2013 11:25
A police water cannon. File photo.
Image by: FABIAN BIMMER / REUTERS

Riot police fired water cannon Friday at hundreds of protesters in the Indian state of Kerala demanding the resignation of a lawmaker over allegations he raped a schoolgirl 17 years ago.

P.J. Kurien, 72, the deputy speaker of the state's upper house, was acquitted of rape in a trial in 2005 but he has come under new pressure after his accuser demanded a fresh probe in the wake of the storm over a deadly gang-rape in Delhi in December.

The resurrection of the allegations have embarrassed the ruling Congress party, which promised to get tough on sex attackers in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape.

Demonstrators have been camped outside the state assembly for the last five days to demand Kurien's resignation, and managed to stall proceedings by preventing local lawmakers from entering the building.

"It's a disgrace for India and the women of this country that Kurien can chair a debate on laws to protect women," VS Achuthanandan, Kerala's veteran Communist party leader, told AFP.

The alleged victim's mother has written to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi to urge her to sack Kurien, who has been a lawmaker in Kerala for the last 19 years.

Kurien says the accusations are part of a politically-driven media smear campaign.

"I've been exonerated by the Supreme Court and acquitted after three police investigations," Kurien said.

Meanwhile in the capital New Delhi, a judge on Friday summoned a federal lawmaker over allegations that he ordered the abduction of a minor who was later raped.

Mahabal Mishra, who is a Congress representative, has ignored a previous summons. His office said that Mishra was in Allahabad where the Maha Kumbh Mela - a massive religious festival on the banks of the Ganges - is taking place.

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Thu Jul 31 07:21:54 SAST 2014 ::