Student activist Valarmathi, transgender rights Grace Banu and 15 others have been arrested from the Sitling village in Dharmapuri, while they were speaking to the family of am Adivasi girl who died on Saturday, days after she was allegedly raped by two men in the village. The group, many of whom belong to the Tamil Nadu Women’s Federation, was on a fact finding mission in the village. Minutes after they were arrested, Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education KP Anbalagan came into the village to meet the family of the minor girl and hand over a solatium.
Speaking to TNM, Valarmathi says that police descended on the home of the family in Sitling village, even as the fact finding group was leaving after speaking to the grieving family of Nithya*, the 17-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and died days later, allegedly because she was not given proper medical care.
The arrests followed heated a exchange between the fact finding team and some AIADMK cadres, Valarmathi says, who roughed them up and tried to take away their cell phones. The cadre had arrived at Nithya’s home to greet Minister for Higher Education KP Anbalagan, who was to arrive shortly.
Valarmathi says that over 50 policemen with lathis surrounded them, and convoyed the van that the team came in and took them to the Harur police station.
“We haven’t been told why we are arrested. We had already finished speaking to the family,” Valarmathi says, “The police arrested us because they are scared that we will expose them. The police didn't take the complaint of the parents. The DSP has told the family not to register the case as rape.”
“If she had got treatment, the girl would not have died. The police handed her over to a home without giving treatment,” she alleges.
The student activist also alleges that the family was threatened in their presence, "They are threatening them not to speak to us. The police has been behaving very badly with us. We haven't eaten anything or even had a drink of water. We are not even allowed to use the toilet.”
Speaking to TNM, gender and caste rights activist Grace Banu, who was also a part of the group alleges that they have been made to sit for hours without being provided a reason.
“Another trans woman and I got down to go to the bathroom. Around 10-15 male police officers shouted at us very badly. Then they told us to use the bathroom in front of four women police officers. They said they will take us to the bus stand initially, but they brought us to the police station. They are remanding two men and two women: Valarmathi, Mahalakshmi, Vediyappan, and Ramakrishnan under 7(1)(a) in The Criminal Law Amendment Act and Section 143 of the Indian Penal Code,” she says.
The Harur police refused to speak to TNM on record on the issue. Sources however say that the group had been arrested as they “tried to create a ruckus.” "They were creating a ruckus and trying to incite the family. So they were arrested. The police presence was there for the Minister's arrival. They are twisting it," said one police officer.
Nithya*, a Class 12 student, was allegedly raped by two men on November 5 when she went into a clearing to relieve herself. On Saturday, the girl died after she was allegedly denied proper medical care. Various political and social activists have slammed the government and police for ‘inaction' following the sudden death of Nithya on Saturday. Her parents have alleged that local police demanded bribes to fill fuel for the police vehicle, reportedly stating that the tribal hamlet was too far. They had also said that the police had refused to file rape charges.
The police have now modified the FIR to include the family’s version. The initial investigating officer has been removed, both the accused are now in police custody.