A case of alleged serial sexual assault and blackmail of scores of women by a gang, suspected to be politically influential in Pollachi, triggered widespread political and social outrage on Monday. A leaked video of a victim pleading with her tormentors prompted political leaders, led by DMK president M.K. Stalin, to demand an independent and fair probe into the crime.
Acting on a girl’s complaint, the Coimbatore Rural police had on February 25 arrested three youth. Subsequently, on March 5, they picked up K. Thirunavukkarasu, another accused. Mobile phones seized from them allegedly contained over 40 video clips of women being sexually abused. Based on the claims made by Thirunavukkarasu that politically influential persons were also involved in the crime, local units of opposition parties in Pollachi had recently staged a massive protest seeking action. The opposition alleged that ruling party men including those close to Deputy Speaker Pollachi V. Jayaraman were involved in the incident.
On Monday, strongly denying any such links, Mr. Jayaraman told journalists in Chennai that as soon as he learnt of the incident last month, he had called the Coimbatore Rural Superintendent of Police R. Pandiarajan and urged him to take action to book whoever was involved in the sexual assault. “The Pollachi MP had also given a petition to the SP seeking action,” he said, showing photographs published in newspapers.
Mr. Jayaraman alleged that the DMK was using the incident for political gain in an election year. Later he submitted a complaint addressed to the DGP, seeking a probe into the campaign against him. The AIADMK’s Information Technology cell submitted a separate complaint to the police, seeking action against those spreading propaganda against the ruling party and its leaders.
In a related development, the AIADMK leadership expelled A. Nagaraj alias ‘Bar’ Nagaraj, the party’s Pollachi Ward 34 Amma Peravai office-bearer for “indulging in anti-party activities”. Nagaraj and three others were recently arrested on charges of assaulting the brother of a college girl who had complained about the accused blackmailing her after sexually abusing her and filming the act. These four were let out on bail (not the main accused).
Earlier in the day, Mr. Stalin and MDMK leader Vaiko threatened to organise protests if the government and the police failed to act immediately and bring to justice other members of the gang behind the crime. In a statement, Mr. Stalin said the video of the helpless girl crying was unbearable to watch and had shaken the State. “It is highly condemnable that the ruling AIADMK is protecting the culprits. The police have not taken adequate action even though the crimes against girls have been taking place for a long time,” he said.
Mr. Vaiko described the cries as “blood-curdling” and demanded an inquiry in a manner that did not subject the girls and their families to further difficulties and shame. “What is painful is the reports that the ruling AIADMK is trying to protect the culprits. Those who are behind the incident should be brought to book and if the government fails in its duty, we will organise protests,” he said.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss tweeted: “The truth that the Pollachi incident tells us is that there are animals who masquerade as human beings. Young girls should be wary of men who try to snare them in the name of love.” His son and youth wing leader said, the four men who were arrested “cannot be the only ones involved in a crime of this nature. The police should find out everyone involved in this network.”