June 09, 2024
Karnataka: Prosecute Prajwal Revanna for the Crimes against Women and Beyond

K S Vimala

A SHOCKING case of crimes against women in Hassan, Karnataka, widely known as the ‘Prajwal Revanna pen-drive case,’ involves numerous horrifying crimes, each more shocking than the other. These include the sexual harassment and rape of hundreds of women who approached Prajwal Revanna, in his capacity as MP of Hassan, for redressal of their grievances over a long period. None of these cases were registered, nor were FIRs filed, due to the influence of former prime minister, Deve Gowda’s family. Prajwal Revanna recorded the acts of rape and used the footage to threaten and blackmail the women into repeated assaults over an extended period. The videos were stolen, leaked, and widely distributed on pen drives, without even blurring the victims' faces, just days before the Lok Sabha elections for political purposes. However, it is a welcome development that this shocking case has sparked a robust movement of resistance, with demands to prosecute Prajwal Revanna and ensure actions are taken to prevent such crimes from recurring in Hassan.

Following a public uproar over the case, the Karnataka government constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate and prosecute the guilty. However, progress has been slow as the main accused, Prajwal Revanna, escaped the country. This has triggered strong reactions from the people of Karnataka. Prajwal Revanna was also the NDA candidate for Hassan in the Lok Sabha elections.


On May 30, various groups, organisations, and intellectuals organised a ‘Hassan Chalo’ and gathered at a mass rally in Hassan to express their anger and demand action against Prajwal Revanna. There is a case against both Prajwal Revanna and his mother, Bhavani Revanna.

The protest demanded categorical assurance from the government for the safety and security of the survivors and called for justice by bringing the culprits to book. More than 143 organisations, individual groups, and intellectuals came together to place their demands before both state and central governments. It was a mammoth rally, the first of its kind in any of the district headquarters. The protesters demanded immediate actions from the governments, including bringing back Prajwal Revanna and arresting him upon arrival, freezing his bank accounts, and cancelling his diplomatic passport.

In the meantime, Prajwal Revanna announced his return through a video, came back, and is now under SIT custody. However, according to media reports, he is not cooperating with the investigations and is instead threatening the investigating officials with dire consequences. His mother, Bhavani Revanna, one of the accused in the kidnap case, is absconding after her anticipatory bail was refused by the people's representative special court.

The protest strongly condemned the vested interests that exploited the videos for political gain and demanded full support for the survivors of the crime. The demands also included setting up a special court to safeguard the dignity of the women survivors and ensuring that the SIT's findings are supervised by the judiciary to maintain transparency and accountability.


Just a few days before the 18th Lok Sabha election, hundreds of pen drives were suddenly found in many public places in and around Hassan, and the videos they contained spread like wildfire on individuals' mobiles. News quickly emerged that a video was in the possession of Prajwal Revanna's former driver, who had handed it over to a local BJP leader in the hope of helping him get justice in reclaiming his lands from Revanna and his family. But instead of helping him, the BJP leader, Devaraje Gowda, wrote to state and central leaders of BJP detailing the facts and advising them against forming an alliance with JD(S) and endorsing Prajwal's candidature.

Another revelation was that Prajwal Revanna had obtained a gag order against many media houses a year earlier, preventing them from publishing any videos about him.

As the videos of sexual abuse by him circulated, showing the women involved, many families panicked, and the women who were abused were traumatised.

Immediately after the election, Prajwal fled the country. Back home, his parents arranged to kidnap the maidservant, who was his victim and had complained, in an attempt to protect their son. A case was registered, and Revanna was arrested after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain anticipatory bail. After a week or so, he was released on bail. Meanwhile, his mother, Bhavani Revanna, is absconding, and the police are planning to issue a lookout notice for her.


Hassan is famous for the beautiful carvings of Belur and Halebidu and the towering Gommateswara idol at Shravanabelagola, which attracts thousands of visitors every day. However, it also has another story: the feudal power and atrocities of the Deve Gowda family. The family has the entire district administration and police under their control, grabbing land from poor farmers at will and violently suppressing any resistance. The situation is so dire that Hassan is nicknamed the ‘Revanna Republic.’

Common people often say, "How can anybody survive by raising a voice against them? Powerful people do whatever they want. We are poor, surviving on our hard work; please leave us alone." Survivors ask, "Can anybody assure us of action and punishment? I am isolated from my own family; no one is talking to me, nobody is visiting us, and the neighbours are treating us badly. Can anybody give assurance?" The response from the state government, aside from forming a Special Investigation Team (SIT), has been unsatisfactory.

Now that Prajwal Revanna has been defeated in the election, albeit by a small margin, it is seen as a victory against his criminal activities. The state government needs to do more. SIT has been established and is working, but not at a satisfactory level. The intelligence department's failure is evident: Prajwal Revanna fled the country with his diplomatic passport, and for three days, his father, HD Revanna, was missing before surrendering from the former prime minister's house! Now, Bhavani Revanna, who is also accused in the kidnapping case for destroying evidence, is absconding.

The state government must stand by the survivors. The chief minister and home minister should make statements to give confidence to the survivors. But the government's response has been to give reactions to the media purely on political lines. Counselling, reassurance of help, and directions to investigating agencies to maintain gender sensitivity during inquiries, as well as providing compensation and rehabilitation, are urgently needed.

The people of Karnataka are eagerly watching the government's actions, expecting responsible steps toward building and rebuilding confidence for the women survivors. If not, the criminal activities of the feudal lords will continue unabated.