The sexual assault of young women and blackmailing and extracting money from them by gangs of young men with connections to bigwigs in the ruling AIADMK have been going on in Pollachi for the last seven years without let or hindrance. The victims were afraid of reporting to the police for fear of their names being made public. When one girl, still in her teens, unable to bear the continuous torture by the gang reported the matter to the police last month, the district superintendent of police, in violation of the 1997 Vishaka guidelines of the Supreme Court and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, made public her name as a warning to her sorority to keep total silence. The brother of the girl was beaten up by the gang and her family was ostracised. The police are more interested in protecting the names of parents of the delinquent youths than safeguarding the welfare of the victims. According to local media, 470 young women have fallen victims to the Pollachi predators so far and 11,000 voyeuristic videos of these victims were in circulation on social media. Most of these women were lured by the gang through Facebook. The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court expressed anguish over the lack of attention by the national media to this sordid crime. Chennai itself woke up to the misdeeds only a fortnight after the case was filed. Such was the reach of the political class in gagging the media. Among four young men arrested by police was a functionary of the AIADMK who was subsequently expelled from the party. The bigwigs of the party whose wards are among the gang of marauders are still protected by police.
Not trusting the police to safeguard their privacy and dignity, two sisters aged 20 and 18 accompanied by their father have approached the Coimbatore district collector seeking a licence to possess a pistol for personal protection. A weapon like a pistol can ensure our safety in the event of abduction by a gang which a lone girl may not be able to overcome physically, they said. The siblings wanted all those who were part of the Pollachi sex abuse network arrested and investigated thoroughly and punished in accordance with law. The public outrage was such that the Tamil Nadu government was forced to transfer the case first to the Crime Branch, CID and then to the CBI. With the Lok Sabha election and by-election to 18 Assembly seats crucial to the ruling AIADMK just a month away, the Pollachi sex scandal could well bring down the government of Edappadi Palaniswamy, considered the most corrupt by its own electoral allies, namely the BJP and the PMK. The State Women’s Commission has directed the Tamil Nadu DGP to provide telephone numbers that victims can call with full confidentiality and register complaints without fear of their names being made public as the Pollachi police had done. Those found guilty must be brought to book irrespective of positions.