Dharmapuri: A sixteen-year-old tribal girl succumbed to her injuries at the government hospital in Dharmapuri on 10 November, after she was allegedly raped by two youths from her village.
Parents and relatives of the girl and about 500 residents from 20 tribal villages around Sittling had been protesting in front of the hospital in Dharmapuri and in their own village since Saturday morning alleging negligence by the police. They refused to accept the body until their list of demands were met, which includes the immediate arrest of the absconding accused. One of the accused — Ramesh — has been arrested by the police.
The 11th-grade student of a government school in Pappireddipatti town was visiting her village for Diwali. On the night of 5 November, she had gone into the forest behind her home to attend nature's call. The two accused — Sathish (22) and Ramesh (22) – then attacked her while in an inebriated state, gagged and raped her. Her father says, “When my daughter didn’t return home, we went looking for her and found her torn clothes in the forest. The two men escaped when they saw us coming and we found her lying unconscious.”
The next day when the parents reached Kottapatti police station to lodge a complaint, they say they were dissuaded by the police from filing a rape case. They had asked them to consider their child’s reputation and her future, according to a Childline worker in Dharmapuri, Thomas, who has been following the case. A case of rape under the POSCO Act was only registered after the death of the victim on Saturday along with other charges, he said. The victim’s father alleges that despite identifying the culprits, arrests were not made immediately and they were allowed to escape.
On the same day, on 6 November, the police escorted the girl to the Child Welfare Committee in Dharmapuri as per protocol when a crime is committed against a child. CWC chairman Saravanan says the girl was brought in around 7 pm that evening and she was traumatised and wasn’t saying anything much. He says the police misled the CWC by claiming she is a victim of a rape attempt.
They didn’t disclose the rape incident to them, he said. But before the CWC could make any further inquiries, the girl started vomiting and she was taken to the government hospital at Dharmapuri after she fainted. Saravanan alleges that the rape was not disclosed to the hospital by the parents either. They had told the doctors that she had been suffering from stomach aches. She had been receiving treatment at the hospital for this when her health starting deteriorating mid-week and she died sometime in the morning on Saturday.
Her parents refused to receive the body until action was initiated against the policemen on duty at Kottampaati Police Station and the culprits were nabbed. Speaking to the press on Saturday, the girl's father said, “Our daughter was not taken immediately to the hospital and given the appropriate treatment. This is why she is dead today. The police wouldn’t take our complaint. And the culprits were able to escape. I will not accept my daughter’s body until they are caught.”
On Sunday, for the second day, the villagers along with the relatives of the girl resorted to "road roko" and were also sitting on a hunger strike in front of the government hospital.
Their other demands include the autopsy to be done in the presence of people appointed by the SC/ST Commission and the procedure be taped on video, a compensation of Rs 1 crore for the victim’s family and the suspensions of Inspector Muthukrishnan of Kodampatti police station along with other policemen who were with him during the incident.
As the Revenue Divisional Officer was not able to pacify the protesters, Dharmapuri District Collector S Malarvizhi visited the protesters on Sunday afternoon and held discussions with them. Speaking to reporters after this, Malarvizhi said the police have assured her that the accused will be arrested within 48 hours. Regarding the compensation to the victim’s family, she said the demand will be brought to the government's attention and appropriate compensation will be provided. The protests and hunger strike were called off following this.
Deputy Superintendent of Police AC Sellapandian said that an inquiry has been ordered into the complaint against the inspector and necessary action will be taken in this regard if he is found guilty.
Rajalakshmi, a women’s rights activist in Dharmapuri, drew attention to an incident last month in Attur, Salem, where another young girl was beheaded by her neighbour for refusing his sexual advances. In that case too, the accused was not arrested immediately. She said unless the police act swiftly in such cases and make an example of culprits, sexual crimes against young girls will continue.
[The author is a Chennai-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters)
Updated Date: Nov 11, 2018 22:35 PM