Protests broke out in multiple localities of Pudukkottai district on Wednesday, after the body of a missing 19-year-old woman was retrieved from the Mallipattinam river in the neighbouring district of Thanjavur on Tuesday. Kamala*, who belongs to a Most Backward Caste, had gone missing on October 28 while she was returning home from work. A 27-year-old man has been arrested after he reportedly admitted to dumping her body in the river after she allegedly had a heart attack; her family has, however, alleged that she was raped by multiple men, belonging to a dominant caste, and murdered.
On Tuesday, the police arrested 27-year-old Nagarajan, a goods transporter, who has admitted to dumping Kamalaâ€™s body in the river. Pudukkottai Superintendent of Police, S Selvaraj tells TNM that Nagarajan has claimed to have been in a relationship with Kamala for a month now. When she was returning home from her workplace on October 28, the duo met enroute, the police claim.
(Nagarajan, the 27-year-old accused)
"They were having sexual relations in a secluded spot when the girl got a heart attack, as per Nagaraj's statement," says the SP, "He then didn't know what to do, he says. Once it was confirmed that she was dead, he put her in a sack and threw her into a nearby water body. He then went to Chennai but we traced him and have brought him for enquiry."
Kamalaâ€™s family has slammed this version of events, and has also accused the police of denying a caste angle in the case.
"She hardly knew the man for a month," says Thomas, a relative of the victim, "There is no way that she would have voluntarily gone with him for the night. We believe several people are involved in this case.â€ť Nagarajan reportedly belongs to the Kallar community â€“ a dominant caste in the region. â€śMen from the Kallar community have always been violent towards the people of our caste,â€ť says Thomas, â€śEven last week they beat up some boys from our village in a bus. We believe that our girl was abducted and murdered.â€ť
Pictures of the Kamalaâ€™s body that have been circulated on social media, show that her wrists have been tied together and the body is in a highly decomposed state. While initially a missing complaint had been filed by the woman's family on October 29, the police refused to divulge details on modified sections in the FIR. The family of the victim allege that this is an effort to divert attention from the caste angle in this case.
Thomas asks, â€śHow can a 19-year-old girl even have a heart attack?" When this question was posed to the police however, they say that they can only base the cause of death on the postmortem report.
Kamalaâ€™s body is currently in the Pudukkottai Government Hospital. Relatives and members of her community who took to the roads in Panankulam, Kaikati and Periyalur however are demanding that the autopsy be conducted at a hospital in Alangadi.