Stunning allegations of police corruption have surfaced in Virudhunagar after a 27-year-old woman immolated herself over a 'false case' against her family. Kin of the victim allege that police, in an effort to protect the woman's sexual assaulter, filed a case against them instead.
According to Bheema Rao, a family friend and neighbour of the victim at the Inamrediyapetti village, the incidents leading upto to Seetha's* drastic decision began on the night of December 23. A 35-year-old man named Enavarsamy from the same neighbourhood allegedly entered Seetha's home in an inebriated condition and attempted to sexually assault her.
On hearing her cries for help, her family members rushed to save her and pushed the alleged culprit to the ground. Neighbours were called in as well to help tackle the situation.
"I was there that night Enavarsamy attacked Seetha. We tied him up and then called the Sulakkarai police station," says Bheema Rao. "The police rushed Enavarsamy to a local hospital because he was bleeding. They told Seetha's family to come to the station the next day and file a complaint," he adds.
But when the family arrived at the Sulakkarai police station on December 24, Inspector Rajaram allegedly refused to file a complaint.
"Enavarsamy has political connections within the local AIADMK. They further threatened to beat us up if we pursued the matter," alleged Seetha's brother Pandian*. "They were taking money and protecting a man who had stalked and harrassed my sister for over two years."
Prior case of stalking
In January 2015, the family filed a case against the alleged sexaul assaulter for stalking Seetha. "He would follow her when she was going to the bathroom or try to misbehave with her when she alone at home. They had filed an FIR against him then but he came out on bail," says Pandian. "We even told his family to keep him under control, but his wife and mother refused to believe us," he adds.
And now two years later, instead of punishing the alleged harasser, police filed a case against Seetha, her brother and parents for assaulting Enavarsamy.
"We came to know that they were planning to arrest us so that we don't pursue the matter further. So we got anticipatory bail from the Srivilliputhur court," says Pandian. "We were going to the station everyday to sign the register. But whenever we went, the police would threaten to jail us and beat us up. My sister was completely terrified and humiliated," he adds.
After going to the station for two days, a bereft Seetha on Saturday apparently decided she couldn't take it anymore. "My sister felt like she was being punished despite being the victim," say Pandian. "When we were all out of the house, at around 2pm, she immolated herself," he adds.
Seetha was rushed to the hospital by neighbours but is in a critical condition. She has suffered 60% burns and doctor at the Madurai Government Hospital are skeptical about her survival.
Police deny allegations
But both the police and AIADMK leader involved reject the blame for Seetha's decision.
When TNM contacted inspector Ramaraj, he claimed that he had not even met the family in question. "I know nothing about this case. I have not interacted with the family. The allegation that I threatened them are all false," he says.
But sources in the station say that a case was finally registered against Enavarsamy on Monday after the victim's dying statement and he is under remand. When asked about the sections slapped against him, the officer says only the inspector is aware of the those facts.
Local AIADMK leader Saraswathi meanwhile agrees to interfering in the case. "I told the police to not file a case because the two families are of different castes. I was afraid that it will lead to tension and even violence," she tells TNM. "Instead, I advised them to sort it out amongst themselves," she adds.
But why was a case filed against the victim's family then?
"What Enavarsamy did was completely wrong. But the family shouldn't have assaulted him for that. He gave a complaint to the police about the assault and they filed a case," she claims.
At the Madurai GH, a defeated family is fearing the death of its beloved member. "The police is responsible for my sister's condition," says Pandian. "Her blood is on their hands."
(*names changed to protect identity)