“I would like to say one thing to the department (police), you have filed one false case based on version of one girl, remaining 99 are working for me. Please don't trouble them. I will surrender voluntarily after the case is over.” This is what a young man can be heard saying in an audio that has gone viral across Tamil Nadu. The man in the audio is reportedly 26-year-old Thirunavukkarasu, a financier who was arrested on March 5 for sexually assaulting a college girl in Pollachi along with three of his friends.
Even before Thirunavukkarasu’s audio was out, the police suspected that he and his three friends had trapped more young girls and sexually assaulted them.
The Pollachi police even issued a public call for women who had been affected by a gang of sexual offenders to file a complaint, but they have not received a single complaint from any woman.
“He can be heard boasting in the audio. We suspect that they have been doing this for at least 7 years, but we need women to approach us with complaints,” Pollachi DSP, Jeyaram told TNM.
A survivor the police found and an audio
After the arrest of three accused- Sabarirajan, Vasanthakumar and Sathish- the police confiscated their mobile phones. Though the trio had deleted most of the old videos and pictures, the phones have been handed over to forensics department. “Forensics can retrieve everything. We are waiting for the results,” the DSP said.
However, a video of another victim is going viral on social media, after a Tamil publication published it. According to the police, the brother of the college girl had accosted the accused and asked them to delete any pictures or videos of his sister. During this attempt, the brother found other videos on their phones. In the highly triggering video, a young girl can be heard begging to a few men to leave her alone. The identity of the young woman in the video has not been established yet. “We questioned them about the video, the accused said they don’t remember the girl. We will find out,” an investigator told TNM.
Police sources also confirmed that they did manage to find the identity of another woman who they suspect was sexually abused by the group of men. However, her family has refused to speak and said they will commit mass suicide if pressurised to file a complaint.
The survivor who went to the police
Priya*, a college student in Pollachi, was friends with Sabarirajan, whom she knew through Facebook. On February 12, Sabarirajan, a civil engineer, called Priya and asked her to bunk classes and meet him in a secluded area in Pollachi. Once Priya reached the place, Sabarirajan, on the pretext of taking her somewhere, told her to sit inside his car. As Priya got inside the car, three other men claiming to be Sabarirajan’s friends also entered the car and started driving it. While the car was moving, the four men sexually assaulted Priya and clicked her pictures and videos. They then dropped her off and sped away.
Sabarirajan then began threatening Priya with her video and extorted money from her. Unable to bear the torture after a point, Priya narrated her ordeal to her brother, who confronted Sabarirajan. The incident came to the attention of the police when the confrontation between the men turned rough. As the police reached the spot, Priya’s brother narrated the incident to the police, who then urged Priya to file a formal complaint against Sabarirajan and the other three men. The police then went on to take three men -- Sabarirajan, Vasanthakumar and Sathish -- into custody while Thirunavukkarasu, the main accused went absconding. Thirunavukkarasu was made the main accused because, according to the police, he is the one who initiates the Facebook befriending and then Sabarirajan takes over. Sathesh owns a readymade shop in Pollachi town and Vasanthakumar works for Thirunavukkarasu to collect money from clients.
On questioning, the arrested men reportedly confessed to the crime. The police also established that the men were habitual offenders and Priya might not be their first victim. Meanwhile, Thirunavukkarasu also released an audio and a video clip requesting to transfer the investigation of the case to the CBI. “Please check my phone call records and CCTV footage to see if it has had any transactions with the complainant,” he says in the audio clip. He also says that he would explain the background about the photos and videos confiscated by the police. “There is a lot of details about important party men in those videos and photos. I am going to tell a big truth. I need the support of the leader of opposition party, media friends, advocate and the judge,” he says urging the police to investigate if the case is true or false.
Following this allegation by the main accused, many political parties held demonstrations in Pollachi town, seeking the police to probe and arrest the politicians involved in the case. There have also been calls for probe against the ruling party AIADMK following the audio clip. DMK and other parties held protests accusing the police of going slow on the case due to pressure from AIADMK. One AIADMK functionary called Nagaraj was also arrested by the police for assaulting the survivor's brother.
The police arrested Thirunavukkarasu on March 5, when he was returning to his house in Makkinampatti.
"Their modus operandi was the same. One of them would befriend the woman. A meeting would be set up. One or more of these men will either try to take the relationship further or they may forecefully take videos or pictures. They would then blackmail them for money," a police official said.
Speaking to TNM about the case, a police officer said that investigation is going on in the case in relation to the extent of past offences committed by the men. “As at this point, we have not found evidence for political involvement in the issue. We are however, investigating into the case and will take strict action on it,” the officer said.
No case of rape filed against the men
An FIR was filed against the four accused under sections 354(A) (sexual harassment), 354 (B) (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe) of the IPC and 66(E) (Punishment for violation of privacy) of Information Technology Act, 2000 and section 4 (Penalty for harassment of woman) of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Women’s Harassment Act and all four have been remanded to judicial custody and are lodged in Coimbatore Central jail.
When asked why a case was not filed under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code for rape, an investigating officer told TNM that the woman and her brother had only said that she was forced to pose for nude pictures, but have not alleged rape.
However, the police have also added IPC Section 394 to the case, an offense of robbery that is punishable up to 10 years if found guilty.
Read related articles- Pollachi sexual assault case: Remand extended for three accused
TNM reported on the same case on February 27, which can be read here.