More than 50 women across Tamil Nadu were allegedly lured and sexually harassed by a four-member gang from Pollachi in a case that has taken a political turn with the Opposition alleging the role of senior AIADMK leaders.
The matter came to light three weeks ago after the four accused, all in their 20s, were arrested in February for allegedly blackmailing and sexually harassing a 19-year-old girl.
The remand of the accused was extended Monday after two weeks in custody and their mobile phones had images of around 50 women, said a police officer part of the interrogation.”They lured women with fake female accounts on Facebook. In most of the cases, they struck a conversation with the victims, asking questions on lesbianism and other sex-related topics. After a friendship, conversations turned into sexual chats and they later revealed their identity and forced the women to meet in person citing their chats. They harassed women in moving vehicles, hotels and even a farmhouse near Anamalai forest. The victims are from Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem and many parts of Tamil Nadu, and they include school and college teachers, doctors, senior secondary and college students,” the officer said.
Most of the victims refused to file formal complaints fearing a backlash from their families, police said. “While refusing to file complaints, at least four victims informally confessed to the police about how they were trapped by the gang. Their versions corroborated with the confessions made by the accused,” an investigation officer said.
A police officer monitoring the probe said that according to first complaint in the matter, the one of the four youths spoke to the 19-year-old on Facebook and befriended her. “On February 12, both of them decided to meet during the lunch break in her college. As she met him and entered his car, three of his friends joined them. After the car started moving, the man who invited her started harassing her sexually while others took videos. They used this video later to blackmail her for more such meetings and money,” the officer said.
After the girl told her family about the incident, her brother approached the gang and requested them to delete a video, but he was threatened instead. The family then filed a complaint at the nearest police station. “Police arrested four others in a separate case for threatening the victim’s brother. They include some politically influential people in Pollachi who have business interests in liquor and cable TV networks,” the officer said.
The AIADMK Monday removed A Nagaraj, one of the accused in the second case of threatening the victim’s brother, from the party’s primary membership after his photo with an AIADMK minister was circulated on social media.
DMK chief M K Stalin issued a statement asking whether the AIADMK government was trying to protect the accused. PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss, who is part of the AIADMK alliance, also issued a statement demanding maximum punishment for the culprits.
Pollachi DSP R Jeyaram has urged the public to inform the police if they know of any other victims, promising that their details will be kept confidential.
The four accused have been booked under IPC Sections 354 (A) and 354 (B), Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Women Harassment Act.
A highly-placed source in the government said the government fears a poll backlash due to the case and the probe may be handed over to the CB-CID soon.
While two accused — Thirunavukkarasu (26) and Sathish (29) — were close friends for over six years, Sabarirajan and Vasanthakumar had joined the gang only recently. “All of them are from a middle- class background and they claimed that they had sexually abused women after they agreed to come to the place they demanded,” said DSP Jeyaram.