Kerala Cricket Assn sat on sexual assault, bullying complaints against coach since 2018

The KCA now maintains that Manu resigned in April this year, but in May he was assigned as coach for the TCM Pink T20 Challengers 2024 tournament.
Manu M
Manu MLinkedIn

Even after the first allegation of sexual abuse surfaced in 2022 against Manu M, a cricket coach for girls with the Thiruvananthapuram district chapter of the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA), the cricketing body allowed him to continue in the post utterly disregarding the safety of children. The KCA had also received complaints regarding Manu bullying girls as early as 2018, according to a former secretary.

Though a POCSO case was registered against Manu following the 2022 incident, he was not convicted as the victim changed her statement, according to media reports.

A total of six POCSO cases have now been filed against Manu, over incidents spanning from 2018 to May 2024. One of the first complaints filed in June 2024 came from a girl who came to Thiruvananthapuram to participate in the Pink T20 tournament. She had been sexually abused by Manu in 2018.

The KCA is now facing criticism for not acting against Manu despite the serious nature of the complaints against him.

The KCA now maintains that Manu resigned in April this year, but in May he was assigned by the association as coach for the KCA TCM Pink T20 Challengers 2024 tournament.

“We got the first complaint from a parent in June this year about an incident that took place in 2018. They had already registered a complaint with Childline before informing us. But in April, Manu had sent in his resignation citing that he got a job in Bengaluru where his family lives,” said Vinod S Kumar, secretary, KCA.

TNM, however, found a screenshot of an email sent by KCA on May 22 regarding the support staff assigned for the fifth edition of KCA TCM Pink T20 Challengers 2024. The email clearly mentioned Manu as the coach for Team Ruby.

The email mentioning Manu as coach for Team Ruby
The email mentioning Manu as coach for Team Ruby

Vinod told TNM that when the first complaint against Manu came in 2022, they had asked him to stay away from coaching without salary. But after the court gave him a clean chit, they took him back. “Lot of parents and students in the coaching centre had come out in support of Manu at that time,” he said.

Vinod added that as per KCA rules, parents or a responsible adult has to be present at the ground where coaching is happening.

Dr N Ajith Kumar, former secretary of KCA, said he was shocked by the inaction by the KCA, especially in a sensitive case like this. He said that in 2018 a complaint against Manu bullying small girls was raised in the KCA apex council meeting. The apex council is a body higher than the KCA central council, consisting of representatives from all districts, a representative of women cricketers, and a representative of men cricketers. “Sambhasiva Sharma, the representative of men’s cricket, raised this issue and said Manu was bullying and treating girls badly. The need for a women’s cell was also raised in the meeting. However, Advocate Sreejth, the KCA secretary at that time, said a women’s cell is not required and they have an ombudsman to address such issues. Sharma replied that we can’t expect little girls to go and report to the ombudsman. Sreejith said we can see when such cases come up,” Ajith Kumar said.

Even after the sexual harassment complaint, Manu continued to coach girls. “At least this fellow should have been removed from the responsibility of coaching girls,” said Ajith Kumar, who believes this was indicative of the influence Manu had in KCA.

Ajith Kumar alleged that Manu is closely associated with Vinod Kumar, the present KCA secretary, and that’s why the KCA did not act strongly in the case. “They are closely connected. Manu is a member of a club launched by Vinod,” he alleged.

Speaking to Mathrubhumi News, Akhil, a cricketer and former player at the KCA, said some of them had taken up the case of sexual abuse faced by minor girls in 2022. “I have seen girls walking away from him crying, but I thought it might be because he scolded them as part of coaching. Later, two girls who were 10 or 12 years old, told me what happened. I took their video and went to the Cantonment police station,” Akhil said. Since the parents of the girls were from Tamil Nadu, he himself gave a written complaint at the station.

He also alleged that the police response was not helpful. “We spent around 90 hours at the police station, but never saw Manu being called for questioning,” he said.

The KCA does not have an Internal Committee as mandated by the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act. It has an ethics committee and an ombudsman, but these bodies cannot look into complaints of sexual abuse targeting minors.

TNM spoke to Sandhya Janardhanan Pillai, a lawyer and former member of the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. According to her, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Rules, 2020 mandates that all the staff, whether contractual or not, need a police verification report before being appointed. “However, we don’t know whether they are following it or not. Here we don’t have a proper policy as such with respect to child protection in sports. It seems that no strict norms are being enforced. We need that,” she added.

Sandhya said that as soon as any authority becomes aware of an offence under POCSO, they should immediately report it to the police. “Women cell or grievance cell is not mandatory here because these students are minors. If it is a POCSO case, they are not supposed to conduct any in-house inquiry. They should directly report it to the police,” she said.

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