Over the past few days, Tamil Nadu has been shocked by the horrible case of sexual abuse of a college student from Pollachi town. What shocked people more is the extent of the crime. It is alleged that a gang of men, some with certain political connections, sexually assaulted over 50 women in the past seven years. The case has taken 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.
While political parties are charged up and have started a blame game, the matter has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation by the state government. With all these drama unfolding, the victim’s voice has been crushed. She is demanding a fair probe.
The National Commission of Women (NCW) have taken cognisance of the situation and has issued a statement. It said that they have come across a news item captioned “Pollachi sexual abuse case: Goondas Act invoked against the accused” in media wherein it’s reported that several girls from schools and colleges were harassed and filmed. The videos were in turn used to blackmail them. They further said that the commission is seriously concerned about the safety and security of the women in Tamil Nadu. They wanted a detailed report after action is taken and investigation is complete.
Victim’s name revealed
On March 1, Coimbatore SP R Pandiarajan held a televised press conference over the issue. A police officer there revealed the name of the victim. After mentioning her name, he further started giving out the details of the investigation. Not learning from this mistake, on March 6 in a press conference, the released a statement in which he identified the with details including her name, her educational qualification and her locality.
The victim then submitted a letter to the Coimbatore district commissioner. “Sir, nobody, including political parties, media and electronic media, should use my name based on what happened to me. If they do, they are adding to my mental trauma and humiliation. They are, thereby, responsible for the consequences of such actions. The justice I deserve should not be re-directed by political parties for their political opportunism. They should not hamper justice. I humbly request that action be taken on those spreading false messages regarding this,” she wrote, reported The News Minute.
Last December, the Supreme Court widened the mandate of existing provisions that disallows media houses to publish the name of the victim of sexual assault. The Supreme Court said that o person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc. can publish the name or picture or anything that can lead to the identification of sexual assault victims. Despite the law being their in bold letters, the Coimbatore Superintendant’s insensitivity is unwelcoming.
Yesterday, DMK MP Kanimozhi questioned the SP’s intention in a protest rally. She further said that this was done intentionally as the police wanted to discourage other women who faced the similar ordeal.
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.
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.