When members of Childline Malappuram visited a house in Kondotty in Malappuram in the third week of October, they never imagined that they would uncover a network of depraved men who were sexually abusing minor boys in the district.
Childline had decided to visit the parents of a teenage schoolboy as the ‘Leheri Virudhha Cell’ (an anti addiction cell), had told them that the boy was hanging around with older men, some of whom were known drug abusers. The minor, the son of a teacher, opened up about how he had been sexually harassed by a gang of men, and investigations by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) later found that this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Several underage boys from three schools in Kondotti were allegedly sexually abused by a group of over 10 men. Five out of eight boys, studying in classes 11 and 12, have confirmed to the CWC counsellors in Malappuram that that they were subjected to aggressive penetrative sexual assault.
“When we investigated we realised that this was a rampant racket in three schools in Kondotti with several men between the age groups of 25 and 50 soliciting these children with marijuana, alcohol and money and sexually abusing them,” Childline coordinator in Malappuram Anwar Karakkadan confirmed to TNM.
In most cases, the victims have named multiple abusers.
As of Monday, the Malappuram police and the Child Welfare Committee have registered 20 cases in the Kondotti police station and one case in the DySP office in Malappuram. Seven people identified by the children have also been arrested. With this, the total number of POCSO cases in Malappuram in the month of October 2018 has reached 36 – the highest monthly total in any district of Kerala ever since POCSO came into force in 2012.
“Those arrested are Faasil (28), ADC Moideenkutty (45), Alavi (45) Razak (30), Anees (28), Abdur Rehman (45) and Mohandas aka Vinu. One of the accused, Palli Babu aka Riyas Babu is yet to be arrested," an officer from the Kondotti station told TNM.
“We believe that the children were being passed around in the circle. Almost all the victims have named multiple abusers in their complaints. On Friday, we had one more case transferred to the Kondotti police where the boy has named 10 people,” said Anwar.
Ganja, money and alcohol
According to the children’s statements, the racket has existed for over three years as some of the victims (now in class 11) were sexually abused from when they were in class 9.
The victims belong to various strata of society.
“One of the boys told us that he had met his abuser when the man gave him a lift to school. Using this acquaintance to his advantage, the man sexually abused the boy. He later introduced him to other men. The child was given cash or cheque for agreeing to meet the men. They had made the boys addicts,” Anwar added.
The children, who were scared to reveal their plight to anyone, were also asked to introduce other boys to the adults. If a new boy was introduced, he and the boy who introduced him were given a small amount of money as reward.
“The boys were groomed to cooperate with the men. Since boys from the same school got other students into the racket, it was easier as they were all classmates or friends. Money, marijuana and alcohol were used. Even the parents weren’t suspicious when the children came back late,” Anwar said.
Cases have been registered against the accused under Section 377 of the IPC and sections 6 read with 5 (L) and sections 4 read with 3 (A) of the POCSO act, which deals with aggravated sexual assault.
A case has also been registered in the DYSP office in Malappuram as one of the victims was from the SC/ST community and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was applied in the case.
"We have registered four cases under section 377 of the IPC and sections 3 (use of child for pornographic purposes) and 4 (abetment of and attempt to commit an offence) and 5 and 6 of POCSO," the Malappuram DYSP officer confirmed to TNM.
As cases are being registered and victims are being counselled, CWC Malappuram believes that more victims are yet to come out.
“Each child who has been abused is leading us to other children. We are positive that several more victims are yet to be discovered,” Anwar added.