'The Pollachi case will have a negative impact for the AIADMK alliance.'
'The BJP and AIADMK are in alliance in Tamil Nadu.'
'That may be the reason for the delay in the central government's approval for case transfer to the CBI.'
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
The biggest sex scandal in recent times is unfolding in Pollachi, Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu, on the Kerala border, in which it was revealed that young women were lured through social media, videographed in compromising positions and blackmailed into having sex with various men.
Shockingly, this terrifying assault on young women had been going on for seven years before it came to light.
The case was first investigated by the local police and then by the CB-CID, Tamil Nadu police, before the state government decided to hand it over to the CBI.
The case took a turn for the worse when a police officer not only named a victim, but also gave out her address. Then the state government named the victim in an order it issued.
The court has now fined the Tamil Nadu government Rs 2.5 million to be paid to the victim for naming her.
"I am very sure that he (the superintendent of police) deliberately revealed the identity of the victim. The state government's GO (government order) too did the same... This was done obviously to pressurise other victims not to come forward to make a complaint so that the bigwigs involved are protected," U Vasuki, vice president, All India Democratic Women's Association, tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar in an e-mail interview.
In the 21st century where college students are aware of their rights, how come this scandal went on for seven long years?
For friendship or love, trust is the basis. Is trusting someone wrong or betraying the trust wrong? Who is at fault?
I fear that the whole discourse would turn around against the victim.
The physical, psychological and social impact of sexual assaults cannot be underestimated. Despite awareness, the social stigma makes even an aware person hesitate to lodge complaints.
In the Pollachi case, there are many sections of people that started advising dos and don'ts to girls, but not to boys.
The chairperson of our state women's commission said that girls should nurture morality. (She actually meant that girls must have control over their sexuality).
Then again, note that it is not meant for boys the concepts of friendship or love, and take us back to, I don't know, which century!
Society keeps blaming women, their attitude, their dress, the timing when they were out on the streets etc.
Then how do we account for child rape or an 80-year-old woman being gang-raped?
The assembly speaker in Andhra Pradesh said women must be parked at home like cars so that there is no accident/sexual assault. He did not dare say that men must be parked at home to avoid violence.
The recent 'Me Too' movement itself is a classic example of this hesitation for fear of social stigma for years together.
Some are pushed to committing suicide. Some become chronic depression patients. Some families shift their residence. They may stop the girl from school/college.
We really have a long way to go. Moreover, the money-spinning business, the patronage given by influential persons and the connivance of police is a dangerous mix which forms a criminal network that will prevent the victims from coming forward boldly.
Do you think the police officer gave out the girl's and her brother's name and address to prevent other victims from coming forward?
I am very sure that he deliberately revealed the identity of the victim. The state government's GO (government order) too did the same.
Actually, the crime number is enough to transfer a case to another agency, no need to mention the name of the victim.
Don't tell me that the SP and higher-ups in the government/DGP are not aware of the legal position regarding not revealing the identity of victims of sexual violence. They know it perfectly.
This was done obviously to pressurise other victims not to come forward to make a complaint so that the bigwigs involved are protected.
On the other hand, Bar Nagaraj (one of the alleged accused) was booked only under an assault case and immediately let off on bail.
Cases against students/women activists are foisted. People who posted on their social network that the ruling party is involved are slapped with cases by the cyber crime police.
No action has been taken against the police officer. Will your association pursue this?
The Madurai bench of the Madras high court took up the case suo motu and has stated that disciplinary action has to be taken against the concerned police officials who disclosed the identity of the victim. Our organisation will pursue that.
But the court did not recommend the same action for the officials responsible for the GO which contained the name of the victim. The court has only recommended to issue a modified GO. We will take it up also.
As of now, we have given a complaint to the CB-CID regarding the mistakes and procedural lapses committed by the local police and attached whatever evidence we collected.
For example, statement 161 (of those involved) was recorded by a male police person which is contrary to CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) provisions; the culprits were not taken into police custody within 15 days of their arrest; they were not physically presented before the court for taking them from judicial custody into police custody, instead video conferencing was used.
There are judgments rejecting that. Later, the accused can use all this as their defence.
What does the CBI have to do to make other victims come forward?
We need not teach the CBI how to get evidence, they are quite capable!
Anyway, the central government is yet to give clearance to the CBI though the state government has already recommended the transfer of the case to the CBI.
When it is done, we will give a petition to the CBI regarding other aspects.
Do you have faith in the CBI as the ruling party in Tamil Nadu is in alliance with the ruling party at the Centre?
The question is right. The BJP and AIADMK are in alliance in Tamil Nadu. That may be the reason for the delay in the central government's approval for case transfer to the CBI.
The BJP government has consistently misused the CBI as a political instrument for their narrow political gains.
That is why we have demanded that an honest CBI officer should lead the investigation under the direct monitoring of the high court.
Are womens's associations such as yours planning to conduct independent investigation into the Pollachi crimes?
We always try and meet the victims and the neighbours to ascertain the facts of the case before putting our weight beind it.
It may not be a foolproof inquest. But to satisfy ourselves about the veracity of the complaint and to get some inputs which may have been missed by the victim herself because she will be unaware of so many aspects.
In this case, we tried. But the victim's family was unwilling. The other victims are not known to us.
Forensic examination will reveal the deleted videos in the cell phones. Are you going to put pressure on the government to make sure this evidence is not suppressed?
The local press put the number of videos at about 100.
Magazines like Nakkeeran already seem to be in possession of some of these. So, it will be very difficult for the investigating agency to hide the whole truth.
We and other organisations will keep watching, certainly.
Will the investigation slow down till voting day is out of the way?
I have a feeling the central government may not give approval for the CBI probe before elections on April 18, or they may do it just a week before the elections.
By the time the CBI makes its preparation and starts the investigation, it will be past the elections.
Do you think this scandal will have an effect on the election?
I am very sure the Pollachi case will have a negative impact for the AIADMK alliance.
That is why they removed Bar Nagaraj from the party, quick transfer of the case to the CB-CID from local police and double quick transfer to the CBI.
They are making Hindutva outfits blame our women's organisations and other organisations as Naxalites and Maoists who would create an anti-Sterlite-like situation and put people to danger by instigating violence and blowing this out of proportion.
This shows they are feeling the impact.