Neduvasal protests
Police, however, denied the allegations and claimed that the protesters have links with Maoists.
Facebook/Sums Valarmathi

In a shocking revelation, two women belonging to a seven-member student group that were heading to Neduvasal in Pudukottai district from Coimbatore as part of their campaign in support of farmers were not only arrested but were allegedly stripped several times by the police under the pretext of a search.

While Valarmathi, a journalism student and Swathi, a student of ophthalmology are still lodged in the Trichy women’s jail, The News Minute spoke to their advocate S Raja, who met the women at the prison last Tuesday.

Narrating their story, he said that the women were stripped naked at least six times since they were arrested and lodged in jail on the night of April 15. “The girls told me they protested and did everything they could within their limits. But the police will have none of it. They were asked to strip once they entered the jail, and when the girls protested, they were told if they did not oblige it will be dealt with severely. The next day they were again made to strip six times. Every time they protested, they were verbally abused and forced to strip,” Raja says.

The girls – along with five other men – belonged to Students Uprising Movement for Social Awareness (SUMS) and have been campaigning against the Neduvasal hydrocarbon project and in support of farmers protesting in Delhi. On the morning of April 15, they took a train from Coimbatore to Neduvasal. The group was also doing a campaign on the train, playing the parai (a drum) and distributing pamphlets. Raja says the police had planned to arrest them in Karur but since the media had gathered at the Karur railway station, they were arrested in Kulithalai, the stop before Karur.

Image courtesy: Facebook/ Sums Valarmathi

Meanwhile, the police claim that the seven students have links with Maoists and they were instigating violence among the general public.

Gurunadhan, the Inspector at Kulithalai police station in Karur, however, denied that the women were forcefully stripped. Speaking to TNM, he said, “These are false accusations made against the police, nothing like that happened. They have not been stripped or beaten up in the central jail. We arrested them on April 15 and remanded them the same day. There were five men and two women. Three men have been sent to Central jail, two women to Trichy women’s jail and two other men to Ariyalur Fosters school.
They have been charged under IPC sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 505 1(B) (intent to cause or likely to cause fear or alarm to the public) and 7(1) (a) of Criminal Amendment Act (molesting a person to prejudice employment or business).

Their lawyer, however, says that they will demand action against the jailors once the women are out bail.

“They got arrested and that is fine at one level though we are fighting the case. We think the charges are false. But what makes them strip the women? What is worse is stripping is apparently a norm in the Trichy women’s jail. A woman who has spent several years in jail told the girls that she has not seen anyone protesting the stripping in jail. Sometimes, the women are denied basic rights like sanitary napkins. We are trying to get the girls out on bail and after that we are thinking of initiating action against the jailors of Trichy women’s jail for doing this to them” Raja says.

(With inputs from Pheba Mathew)