Chennai woman tortured, chained and set on fire alive, accused detained
** Trigger Warning: Details of violence included **
In a ghastly incident in Chennai, a 28-year-old named Vetrimaaran allegedly killed his childhood friend, Nandhini (26), after chaining her up, slitting her wrists and feet, and setting her on fire while she was alive in an open field near Navalur on the evening of December 23. The crime took place under the jurisdiction of Thazhambur police station. Police have arrested Vetrimaaran, a trans man, who purportedly confessed to the crime. He has been booked under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
Speaking to TNM, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) for Kelambakkam, V Venkatesan said, “Nandhini and Vetrimaaran knew each other from childhood. They were both working in the same software company. Eventually, Nandhini drifted away from Vetri. She was also in a relationship with a colleague who discouraged her friendship with Vetri saying that Vetri was too possessive.”
The ACP added, “Nandhini sustained deep cuts on her wrists and feet inflicted by a blade. She was chained up and set on fire alive in an open field. A passerby who noticed the fire went to investigate and found her screaming in pain. He doused the flames and notified the 108 ambulance service. Before losing consciousness, she gave the passerby Vetri’s phone number and the police attempted to contact him. He initially said that he was not in the vicinity, but then arrived at the spot in a few minutes.” Vetri even accompanied Nandhini in the ambulance to Chromepet General Hospital where she died from her injuries, the ACP said.
The ACP also said that Vetri then broke down and confessed to the crime. Police officials further told TNM that the accused has surrendered the murder weapon.
Meanwhile, LGBTQIA+ activists have condemned the investigation carried out by the Thazhambur police alleging human rights violations and highhandedness of the officials. Representatives of the NGOs Orinam and SAATHI told TNM that two friends of Nandhini and Vetri were illegally detained by the police as part of their inquiry at 3 am. One of the friends was a cis woman and the other a trans man. The activists also alleged that the Thazhambur police physically assaulted one of the detained friends who is a trans man while he was in the police station, and used transphobic slurs against him.
“Police cannot force a woman to go to the police station at night as it is a violation of section 160 of the CrPC,” they pointed out. They further demanded that the accused Vetri should be incarcerated separately. “The accused should not be housed with other prisoners, but imprisoned separately as per the Union Home Ministry’s guidelines.”
Under the section ‘Infrastructure in Prison’, the Union Home Ministry’s guidelines state that:
“Appropriate arrangements for providing suitable accommodation and facilities in accordance with their gender identity may be made in the prisons. A separate enclosure/ward for transgender inmates for trans men and trans women may be ensured and also such enclosures should be separate from male and female wards/enclosures. However, while making provision for a separate enclosure for transgender prisoners, due care may be taken by the prison authorities that this may not result in their complete isolation or propagate social stigma among such prisoners. There should also be adequate preservation of the right to privacy and dignity in regard to separate toilets for trans men and trans women as well as shower facilities.”
When asked about the violation of section 160 of the CrPC, ACP Venkatesan agreed that it was unlawful of Thazhambur police to have questioned the woman at 3 am. He also claimed that he had admonished the station staff and ensured that the two friends of Nandhini and Vetri, the cis woman and the trans man who were taken in for inquiry, were released. The ACP further assured that Vetri would be incarcerated separately in keeping with Union Home Ministry’s guidelines.