TN: Police Arrest Gang That Befriended At Least 50 Girls On Facebook, Allegedly Sexually Harassed Them Later
A case of alleged serial sexual abuse, blackmail and harassment of at least 50 women by a gang has come to fore in the recent days. The case has taken the Tamil Nadu by storm after a leaked video of a victim pleading her tormentors prompted senior leaders like DMK president M.K. Stalin to demand a fair probe in the case.
The police have slapped the provisions of the Goondas Act on the four gang members who have been accused in the Pollachi serial sexual assault case. On Monday, March 11, the Pollachi Magistrate Court extended the remand of three out of the four accused— Sathish, Sabarirajan and Vasanthakumar—by 15 days.
The Pollachi Sexual Assault Case
A 19-year-old college student from Pollachi in Coimbatore befriended Sabarirajan on Facebook. Sabarirajan later asked the girl to bunk classes on February 12 and meet him in a secluded area in Pollachi. The News Minute reported that when the victim reached the area she was asked to sit inside a car. Three other men, on the pretext of being Sabarirajan’s friends, got inside the car and started driving. While in the car, the four men allegedly sexually assaulted the girl, clicked pictures and videos of the act and later dropped her off.
Sabarirajan then constantly blackmailed her and extorted money from her. Burdened by constant blackmailing, the girl narrated the incident to her brother.
The incident came to light after victim’s brother confronted the gang members and the police were called to intervene. When the brother asked the gang to delete his sister’s video, he also stumbled upon pictures and videos of other victims. The victim’s brother narrated the incident to the police and a formal complaint was filed against the group. Soon after, on February 24, the police arrested three men— Thirunavukkarasu, Sathish, Sabarirajan, while the fourth gang-member— Thirunavukkarasu, the main accused was apprehended on March 5.
The four suspects have been arrested under sections 354(A) (sexual harassment), 354 (B) (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe) of the IPC and 66(E) (Punishment for violation of privacy) of Information Technology Act, 2000 and section 4 (Penalty for harassment of woman) of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Women’s Harassment Act.
How Did the Gang Operate?
The accused confessed to their crime shortly after arrest. The police were able to establish that the gang members were habitual offenders. A police officer familiar with the case told The News Minute, “Their modus operandi was the same. One of them would befriend the woman. A meeting would be set up. One or more of these men will either try to take the relationship further or they may forcefully take videos or pictures. They would then blackmail them for money.”
After the arrest, the police confiscated their phones. Although most of the pictures and videos were deleted, the phones were handed over to the forensics department to find additional information on other victims.
While the police sources said that they have figured out the identity of another suspected victim, there has been no formal complaint by any other woman. The local police strongly feels that there might be at least 50 victims who were lured by the four men. The Pollachi police even issued a public call for women, to come forward, if they have been victims of sexual assault by a gang of four men. However, the police have not received any complaints yet.
Meanwhile, the audio of the fourth accused, the 26-year-old Thirunavukkarasu has been making rounds in Tamil Nadu where he can be heard saying, “I would like to say one thing to the department (police), you have filed one false case based on version of one girl.”
Pollachi DSP Jeyaram suspects that the gang has been doing this for at least seven years.
AIADMK expels party worker
On March 11, the AIADMK expelled a 27-year-old party worker, A Nagaraj from the primary membership of the party for assaulting the brother of the victim, who had gone to confront the gang leader Thirunavukkarasu and his aides.
Thirunavukkarasu reportedly informed Nagaraj and four others of the complaint against him, following which Nagaraj assaulted the girl’s elder brother. The opposition parties took up the issue and accused the AIADMK of supporting the accused in the case. In a joint statement party coordinator O Panneerselvam and joint coordinator, Edappadi K Palaniswami informed that Nagaraj has been expelled.
The opposition DMK has alleged that the ruling party men, as well as those who are closely associated with Deputy Speaker Pollachi V. Jayaraman, are involved in the incident. Not only did Jayaraman denied the allegation, but also said that the opposition has turned the incident into a political slugfest during an election year.
The Logical Indian take
Revenge porn, online stalking, abuse, harassment has become all too common in today’s world. The gang in question allegedly used social media to stalk and lure women and then used the situation to their advantage. The police suspect they may have carried on unabated for years, in absence of formal complaints. The Logical Indian urges women to come out and speak against harassment, intimidation and blackmail without fear. We would also urge authorities to conduct a free and fair probe and support such brave women. At the same time, people should be wary of befriending unknown Facebook profiles.