MADURAI: Five Dalit children, including four nine-year-olds and a six-year-old, have been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act for allegedly sexually harassing a few caste Hindu children at Ulaipatti in the district.
According to the M Kallupatti Police, which falls under the Usilampatti sub-division, all the five accused, including a girl, were studying at the Ulaipatti Panchayat Union Primary School.
When the children were playing outside the school before classes commenced on Friday, a few caste Hindu children studying in a nearby government-aided school went past the Ulaipatti school.
At that time, the four boys reportedly touched the girls and used vulgar words, before allegedly attacking them with stones and pouring cow dung mixed with water on them.
Based on a complaint by S Velusamy, a victim’s father, the police booked the five Dalit children under Section 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 294 (b) (Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words), 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) 596 (ii) (Punishment for criminal intimidation) and POCSO Act, said the police.
However, the five accused, in the presence of their parents, told Express that it was the caste Hindu children who first abused them using their caste name. The children said that it was only after that they had thrown stones at each other and had a heated exchange.
The children claimed that they neither touched the victims nor poured cow dung mixture on them as was being alleged.
According to the police, the First Information Report mentions, “The accused touched the body parts of the victims before pouring cow dung mixture on them and also attacked them with stones. Two girls sustained injuries.”
K Kaliappan, president, Parents Teachers Association of the Ulaipatti school, said that though the petty quarrel was over in the morning, a caste Hindu outfit aggravated the issue and put pressure for registering the case.
According to him, before the parents of the Dalit children could be informed, the police had registered the case.
Gandhimathi, the headmistress of Ulaipatti school, said that since the incident had occurred outside the school and before the teachers came for work, she could not comment on it.
She, however, added that she wanted the issue to be sorted out amicably, but that the police registered a case.
S Baskaramathuram, an advocate and State Youth Wing Secretary of Puthiya Tamilagam, who organised the press meet, said it was cruel that the children were booked as if they had been involved in a grave offence.
The police should have advised both the sides to educate their children not to get involved in such quarrels,
Reacting to the issue, Madurai Superintendent of Police Vijayendra S Bidari, said, “It is the duty of the police to register a case if a complaint is raised. As per the Juvenile Justice Board, the police should not decide the case against the juveniles. Only the prosecution should.”