The Thrissur IG office recently reopened a shocking case of alleged sexual abuse of two minors – aged 7 and 12 – from Malappuram, one year after the local police fudged statements and delayed the investigation. The case is from August 5, 2015, when Childline Malappuram visited a rented home in Makanda after a tip-off from the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) that two minors were allegedly being mistreated.
But despite the statements of the children about aggravated sexual assault, the local police dragged their feet in the case for months, and failed to make any arrests. As the probe in the case finally gets underway, here’s a look at exactly what happened.
A history of the case
Anwar Karakkadan, Childline Co-ordinator in Malappuram, told TNM that the DCPU informed them that two minors, then aged 6 and 11, were not being sent to school and were allegedly kept in confinement. The DCPU urged that they needed to be rescued and brought to a shelter home.
“When we went there, what we saw was much worse. The children were not wearing any clothes, they were staying with an old woman and their mother was not around," he said.
The neighbours threw more light on the situation. "The children's mother, who was working as a sex worker, lived with them. They also had a step-father. However, the children were not being sent to school and had minimal social interaction," Anwar added.
After a primary investigation, Childline approached the CWC in Malappuram and after citing the Right to Education Act, the minors were moved to a shelter home on the same day, since they were not being sent to school. Further investigations ensued following this.
How minors' statements indicated aggravated sexual abuse
Once the kids were brought to the shelter home, an in-house counsellor had spoken to them and hints of sexual abuse were revealed from their statements, Anwar added. When a senior psychologist working with Childline also spoke to the children, the fact that they were sexually abused became clear and then it became a case under the POCSO Act.
On August 17, 2017, a ‘supporting person’ was appointed by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) to confirm the statements of the minors and a detailed report was written.
"The children initially did not reveal much. They were not familiar with social interactions. But with multiple rounds of counselling, they began to share more details and we then understood that their mother was also involved. They named five people, including their step-father, and stated that it was their mother who took them to different places. What was shocking was that their statements confirmed that there was aggressive penetrative sexual assault," Anwar added.
CWC Malappuram followed up the statements with a mandatory medical check up of the minors. A case was initiated under POCSO – under sections 5 and 6 (both dealing with aggravated penetrative sexual assault) - and an FIR was filed at the Mankada police station on September 3, 2017.
Why local police indefinitely delayed investigations
However, for three months after that, there was no progress in the investigation. The police had not made any arrests. "We were not sure if investigations in the case were taking place or not. We wrote several letters to the CWC, asking them to follow up with the Mankada police," Anwar said.
After pressure from the CWC, the police officers took statements of the minors. The children were questioned by the Vanitha police (women police). However, investigations were again delayed as the police alleged that the statements by the minors lacked clarity.
"A second attempt to take the statements of the minors was made and this time, too, investigating officers alleged lack of clarity in the statements of the minors. This was surprising as the statements provided by them during our counselling – with Childline's in house counsellors, senior psychologist, DCPU’s counsellors and the supporting person from the CWC itself – were convincing enough to show that this was a serious case of sexual assault," Anwar added.
In June 2018, the Mankada police cited a lack of evidence and sought that the case be closed. The case was sent to Thrissur Range IG office but after inspection, the IG office decided to relaunch the probe, stating that they were not convinced by the investigation. A new special investigation team was formed with ACP MK Gopalakrishnan heading the investigation.
"According to the latest reports, the accused are in police custody and several others are implicated in the case. The mother, also an accused, was absconding after the first case was filed. She surrendered before the POCSO court in Manjeri last year and is being questioned for further details on the number of accused," Manikandan, Chairman of Childline told TNM.