Pollachi rape case: Victims afraid to come forward after Coimbatore cops revealed girl’s name
While the CB-CID squarely blamed the Coimbatore rural police for revealing the victim’s identity to the media, victims have been frightened after the videos were leaked to news and social media.
COIMBATORE: Pollachi was once known as tinsel town’s favourite shooting spot. Today, it is notorious for the case in which a group of men are alleged to have sexually assaulted and blackmailed women for seven years. For the first time, since the Jallikattu protests of 2017, outrage over the case brought college students to the streets, demanding action at the earliest. Little over a month since the case broke, however, the investigation is floundering, with CB-CID sleuths claiming that victims are unwilling to file complaints.
The reason for this reluctance is that Coimbatore rural police, and later the State Home Department revealed the name and details of the original complainant in the case. This is alleged to have left other victims fearful that their identity might be revealed if they pursue a complaint.
The case, that many in Pollachi believe has brought shame to the town, originally emerged on February 24 as one of small-time robbery. At the time, police said that it was a simple matter of a group of young men robbing a 19-year-old college student of her gold chain. However, after they started investigating the case, they said that she had been sexually harassed and the act videographed by the gang. Her jewellery was snatched from her after she resisted assault, police said.
According to the police, one of the accused had contacted the complainant by phone, through their Facebook friends, and asked her to come to Unjavelampatti to talk on February 12. Subsequently, she boarded a car in which two men were already present. Two other men got in later. While the vehicle was moving, one of the accused is alleged to have forcefully removed her clothes while another allegedly shot a video of the assault. Police said she resisted the attack but was pinned down by the other men. The accused allegedly told the complainant that she should give them money whenever they needed or they would release the video of the assault online.
Based on her complaint, police identified four of the accused and arrested three of them on February 26. Pollachi police finally arrested the fourth accused on March 5.
The issue captured the imagination of the State on March 11, when a video purportedly showing a woman being sexually assaulted and harassed was released online. Representatives of Opposition parties blamed a ruling party member of involvement in the case and demanded the police take stringent action. As outrage grew, police detained four of the accused under the Goondas Act on March 12.
However, since then, the CB-CID, which is now investigating the case, has struggled to take the probe forward. So far police have seized five videos from the accused and an audio from another victim. They have summoned and investigated 10 people, including political party leaders. They have also seized documents from the houses of accused. The cops said they had many videos of victims but without complaints they were unable to move forward.
The CB-CID squarely blamed the Coimbatore rural police for revealing the victim’s identity to the media. Further, after the videos were leaked to news and social media sites, victims have been frightened. CB-CID SP Nisha Parthiban told Express that they had approached three victims but none of them were ready to file a complaint.
“Based on our requests, videos of the victim’s identity being leaked have been almost entirely removed. We are also taking steps to have all the videos related to the Pollachi case removed. We have sent a request to YouTube for help,” she said.
READ MORE | The Pollachi crisis
Member of an all-women independent high-level committee Sudha Ramalingam told Express that the committee had found more women and young girls who had been victims of the gang. “We have received complaints from a few victims. But they are confident that we will not reveal their identity. If police takes swift action more victims will come forward to lodge complaints. We are giving counselling and other assistance to the victims who are approaching us,” the senior advocate said.
G Ramakrishnan, a member of a Fact Finding Team formed by CPI (M) on this case, said “The case is still struggling to find a right path since police failed to protect the vital videos.
“Due to political interference, there is a high chance that the case might be closed before victims get justice. CBI or CBCID is not enough to handle this case. The investigation should be done under supervision of a committee formed by the High Court. The case can only reach a conclusion and the real culprits will be punished only if there is a high court-monitored probe,” he said.
Activists also demand a probe into deaths of women and girls by suicide in Pollachi in the past seven years lest any of the deceased had been blackmailed by the gang.