Police suspect of at least 15 more men.
While Coimbatore (Rural) Superintendent of Police R Pandiarajan on Monday said that no videos of rape/sexual assault were found in mobile phones of the accused in the Pollachi sexual abuse-cum-blackmail case, inquiries reveal that the crime network could be much wider with involvement of at least 15 men.
The police have so far arrested four youth and booked them only under Sections 354 (A) [sexual harassment], 354 (B) [assault or use of criminal force] of the IPC read with 66 (E) of IT Act and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act. No rape charges were booked.
However, following the political and social outrage, steps are being initiated to book them under the Goondas Act.
“The four persons arrested so far were involved in blackmailing and harassing the 19-year-old student. She could identify and name them. But at least 15 persons were associated with the gang, whose involvement is suspected in sexually abusing and blackmailing several other women. Unfortunately, only one complainant has come forward to testify,” said a police officer who is privy to the investigation.
The mobile phones seized from the accused — K. Thirunavukkarasu (27), N. Sabarirajan (25) aka Rishwanth, N. Sathish (29) and T. Vasanthakumar (24) — had videos of at least 40 women who the accused had allegedly blackmailed for money and sexual favours.
“The faces of the accused were not seen in any of the videos found in the mobile phones. The victims were threatened to expose themselves. The mobile phones were produced before the court and later sent for a forensic examination to retrieve erased data,” the officer added. The police suspect that the number of victims could be more than 100.
As per the complaint of the 19-year-old girl, she knew Sabarirajan, who asked her to come to Unjavelampatti near Pollachi during lunch break on February 12. He and the other accused were waiting there in Thirunavukkarasu’s car. Once she got into the vehicle, the accused allegedly sexually assaulted her and filmed the act. All the arrested youth are in judicial custody now.
Meanwhile, the leak of a video prompted prominent personalities to take to social media demanding justice for the girls. “Shocked by the #PollachiSexualAbuse case. Hope there is systemic support given so that survivors can come forward and strengthen the case against the criminals who did this. Preying on girls using social media is a growing menace and we must safeguard against it,” tweeted actor Siddharth.
Calling the accused as “monsters”, musician G.V. Prakash in his tweet said that they would be a danger to society if released. Alleging that the gang is politically connected, singer Chinmayi Sripaada tweeted, “There is a lot of pressure on the women to not speak out. Ask for #JudicialProbeForPollachiRapes. If it is a judicial probe, victims will have more confidence in coming out.”
The All India Democratic Women’s Association recently urged the SP to appoint a woman officer to investigate the case. Mr. Pandiarajan told The Hindu that the case would be handed over to the District Crime Branch and a woman inspector would take over the investigation.