VILLUPURAM: Irula Tribal woman Athiyur Vijaya -- who valiantly fought for justice after six policemen raped her two decades ago when she was just 17 -- was found dead in her house on Friday morning. The 38-year-old had been unwell for the past four months and was reportedly undergoing treatment at the hospital.
Prabha Kalvimani, founder of Scheduled Tribe Protection Movement (STPM) -- one of the most prominent movements which sprang up in 1996 after the rape incident -- recalled the traumatic encounter which Vijaya went through.
The ordeal started in July 1993 when Vijaya (17 at the time) of Athiyur village near Gingee came to visit her aunt at Sitharasur, when Anandhapuram police allegedly took Vijaya to identify a nearby farm where they suspected Vellaiyan, an accused, to be hiding and six policemen then gang-raped and abandoned her.
The next day, her father P Masi filed a complaint at Ananthapuram police station. However, the officials refused to take his complaint, as he had been held for another case.
After a 13-year legal struggle on August 11, 2006, a Villupuram District Court awarded life imprisonment to all six policemen and dismissed them from service. However, the policemen appealed the verdict at the Madras High Court and within three months, they were given bail. In 2008, all the six were acquitted.After this, Vijaya faced severe trauma and was deserted by her family members.
“The judgement in the case further lowered the common man’s faith in the judiciary, especially those who were most in need of justice,” Kalvimani said.