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Minister in sex scandal

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 28: A young Muslim housewife has alleged that a high-profile minister in the Oommen Chandy cabinet sexually exploited her three times when she was a minor and bribed her into retracting her charges before a magistrate.

Rejina, head covered by a green veil and with her child on her lap, said in Kozhikode today that industry minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, the legislature party secretary of Indian Union Muslim League, had 'used' her three times at various locations a decade ago.

She added that Rauf, his relative, paid her Rs 250,000 to retract her statements before the police and a Magistrate.

Kunhalikutty, on the way to the Haj, said in Mumbai he had never met Rejina.

He said the girl's going public so many years after the offence with a new account raised doubts over the motive. 'There is every reason to suspect that she has done it under someone's instigation,' the minister added.

The case first hit the headlines in August 1997 when the Kozhikode-based Anweshi Women's Counselling Centre, led by former Naxalite Ajita, blew the whistle.

The former Naxalite said Kunhalikutty committed the crime when he was a minister in the Congress-led 1991-1996 government.

The then Kozhikode commissioner of police, Neera Rawat, recorded the statements of five victims, including Rejina, alleging that Kunhalikutty, his driver and many others had sexually exploited them.

Rejina, then 16, worked as a counter girl at the RKS Ice Cream Parlour owned by Sreedevi, believed to be heading a prostitution racket.

However, Rawat had a short tenure and her successor failed to mention the minister's name in the FIR.

Sreedevi is thought to have collected huge sums from customers even though Rejina and the other girls received a pittance for their 'services'.

After the news of the scandal was flashed on television channels this afternoon, the RSP demanded that Kunhalikutty quit as minister and face trial.

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