After the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) which was in the dock following revelations about the suspected con woman Sarita S. Nair's illicit links with its leaders, it was the Opposition Left Democratic Front's (LDF) turn to find itself in a hot sex soup.
On June 23, a 30 year-old divorcee complained to the police that Jose Thettayil, (63) a MLA belonging to the Janata Dal (Secular) had sexually used her by falsely promising to get her married to his son. She told the police that the son too had used her sexually feigning love. According to her the father-son duo subsequently reneged from their promise.
The woman even filed "evidence" to the police by providing video clippings of sexually intimate scenes shot from of her own bedroom which she claimed were of herself and Thettayil. The clippings were immediately telecast by the local channels though the faces were not clear. She told the police that she had shot the scenes in November 2012 with her web camera after she knew the father and son were planning to dump her.
"Its sheer blackmail" dismissed Thettayil calling the charges baseless and saying the clippings were fabricated by the woman who was a computer expert. But the police have registered rape cases against the father and son.
Though the revelations put the LDF on the defensive and helped the UDf heave a sigh of relief, Kerala is stunned not just by the antics of political leaders but also the increasing trend of women from higher social strata figuring prominently in sensational crimes. These cases involve sex, sleaze, blackmail or even cold blooded and pre-planned murders in a state which tops the country in crimes. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2012 Kerala registered 455.8 cases for every 1,00,000 persons followed by Madhya Pradesh with a rate of 298.8.
The most sensational upper class woman criminal from the state is Dr Omana Edadan(59)who figures in Interpol's most wanted list. An ophthalmologist from Kannur and a divorcee, Edadan (59) had poisoned to death her estranged lover P. Muralidharan, a contractor, in the night of July 11, 1996 inside the retiring room of railway station at Ooty.
She then chopped the dead body into pieces, stuffed in a suitcase intended to be thrown into a river, hired a taxi and drove to Kodaikanal. Following a tip off from the taxi driver, police arrested her next day. But as the trial dragged, she jumped her conditional bail on January 21, 2001 and has remained untraced since.
Suspected to have escaped to Malayasia, the Interpol issued a Red Corner notice against her in 2007 without avail. "She is among the 10 Indian women figuring in Interpol's most wanted criminals list" said R Sreelekha, Additional Director General of Police.
No less gruesome was the 2009 murder of Bhaskara Karanavar (59) a rich NRI which was plotted by his daughter in law, Sherin (24), a former college beauty queen. Married to Binu, a mentally challenged youth, Sherin, a mother of 6 month-old girl, was convicted for killing Karanavar who was living with them in his house at Chengannur, Alapuzha district. According to the police Sherin committed this to avenge his not including her in his will. Karanavar was strangled to death on 9 November 2009 by Sherin's alleged lover Basith Ali and his two accomplices. Sherin was sentenced to life on 10 June 2010. Sherin was involved in cheating crimes even when she was in New York earlier while living with her husband and his parents.
" At the time when I entered police service 30 years ago, I used to think women could never become hard core criminals. Even if they became criminals, I had thought they were being used by the evil men from behind. But now I know that women too could be cold blooded criminals as men" says Sreelekha, the highest woman police officer.. " These women use their charms to win clout among the high and mighty and have no qualms to freely indulge in sexual liaisons with whoever they find necessary to further their criminal ends" said she.
According to her though there is no proof for an abnormal spurt in the number of women criminals, the recent trend is women from middle and upper middle class families increasingly figuring in serious crimes.
Film actor and model Leena Maria Paul (24) who belonged to Trissur was arrested on 28 May 2013 from a South Delhi farm house for alleged involvement in various cheating cases including duping Rs.19 crore from Canara Bank, Chennai.
She and her partner Shankar Reddy alias Balaji were accused to have cheated Rs.74 lakhs by Skylark Textiles and Outfitters, a Chennai-based firm. A graduate in Dental Sciences, Paul was brought up in Dubai as her father is an engineer there.
Acted in small roles in many Malayalam movies with stars like Mohanlal and Mammutty, she was also reported to do a role in the Hindi film, Madras Cafe. Her accomplice and live in partner Shankar Reddy is still hiding from the police.
Paul and Reddy were fond of luxury cars and had a fleet of seven including a Rolls Royce Phantom at their farm house which was taken for a monthly rent for Rs.4 lakh.
The police also seized 81 luxury wrist watches from their house. The duo are accused in many other cheating cases in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. "They took Rs.20 lakhs falsely promising to bring Katrina Kaif to inaugurate our showroom in 2012" said T.O. Baiju of Emmanuel Silks, a major textile business group of Kerala.
Mitra Susan Abraham (18) a Travel and Tourism student in a college in Ranni, Pathanamthitta, was arrested in 18 January 2012 for having hired paid criminals to grievously injure a youth.
This was to avenge the assault on her male friends in the college. Abraham struck a telephonic friendship with the youth and on 5 August 2011 invited him to a deserted place. When the youth arrived there he was brutally assaulted by the hired criminals.
Nimisha Joseph (23) , a college student was nabbed by police on June 13, 2013 for taking nude photos and videos of her hostel mates and mailing them to her boyfriend in UK. Joseph who also was living in London before coming to Kerala to join college told the police she did the crime at her boyfriend's pressure.
The crime came to light when her hostel mates accidentally saw their pictures on Joseph's laptop.
Sobha John (37) the only woman in Kerala Police's goonda list, was convicted for 7 years imprisonment in August 2012 for blackmailing Kandaru Mohanaru, the head priest of Sabarimala shrine. John, the first accused in the case had made Mohanaru visit her flat in Kochi in 2006 and made him part with his gold ornaments and Rs.30 lakhs at gunpoint.
Priest said he was kidnapped by John and others, taken to her flat and was made to pose with naked women with which she threatened to blackmail him. Following this incident, Kandararu resigned from the priest's post after he faced allegations of moral turpitude. John is the prime accused in two inter-state sex racket cases operated from Kochi and Kozhikode.
This trend of increasing number of women criminals is the other side of a state which also has the country's highest incidence of violence against women according to the National Crimes Records Bureau. Kerala ranked second with a crime rate of 33.8% after Assam (36.9%) in violence against women in 2011.
Though this is seen by the state police as a positive indication of better crime reporting, the State Police Crime Records too show that atrocities against women rose from 9380 to 13000 during 2007-2012 in which rapes doubled from 500 to 1019. Yet another irony of the Kerala conundrum is that the state has traditionally remained the best on all conventional indicators of women's empowerment like sex ratio, literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality rate etc.
However the state which has the country's highest unemployment rate (10%) has women's work participation rate(22.9%)which is lower than national average. There is huge gender gap -18%-against women among the state's unemployed.
"The increasing number of women in high profile crimes should not sidetrack the issue of violence against women. There is no major rise in the number of women criminals. There is a rise in number of crimes and hence criminals both men and women, also tend to increase. Nevertheless there is a growing attitude among women to shun caution and jump into adventurous crimes" says B Sandhya, IG of Police. She also cites examples of various sex rackets where women have played a crucial role.
Many suggest a negative fallout of a positive trend as a reason for the new trend of women in crimes.
"Work participation of women though is low has risen in the past decade and they are much more present in public realm now. More than 50 lakh men work outside the state with their wives heading their families at home. The new exposure of women must have taken a direction towards crimes too" said Alexander P Jacob, Additional Director General of Police.
According to him women criminals have been coming down in numbers as shown by the number of women inmates in jails. The number has come down from about 500 in 2000 to 207 now which include 33 women convicted for life in murder cases.
"This is also due to the change in crime profiles. Earlier most women criminals were arrested in connection with street prostitution or hooch cases. Such street crimes are now replaced by star crimes like high class prostitution or financial swindle etc" said Jacob.
Many cite the fast changing values of a society becoming increasingly prosperous as a cause for crimes against and by women.
The state once very poor economically today is one of the richest thanks to the remittance of Rs.60,000 crores it receives annually from its 25 lakh-strong diaspora based largely in the Gulf. Bereft of insufficient investment channels, the money has been flowing into high levels consumption -highest in the country-various crime rackets involved in real estate, hawala etc. Jacob Punnuse, former DGP had estimated two years ago that the illegal economic activities going on in the state in an year was worth more than Rs.50000 crores.
"The new permissiveness in an increasingly prosperous society thanks to the the huge inflow of remittances from abroad spawns crimes. Make money at any cost has become the current neoliberal dream. Women too have joined this trend with their increasing exposure to outside life" said T N Seema MP and state president of All India Democratic Women's Associatio