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New Delhi: Seven police personnel from Tamil Nadu’s Salem Armed Reserve were suspended on Wednesday, October 20 after a video went viral on social media which showed them allowing the accused in the 2019 Pollachi sexual assault case to meet their family on their way back from court, the News Minute reported.
The video shows a van, which was carrying the accused from the Coimbatore Mahila court back to Salem prison, stopping near Coimbatore airport where several relatives of the accused were waiting for them. As the vehicle was stopped, the accused can be seen interacting with their relatives, reportedly for several minutes.
Vasantha Kumar, Thirunavukarasu, Manivannan, Satheesh and Sabarirajan, were the accused who had been produced before the court on Wednesday, the Indian Express reported.
பொள்ளாச்சி பாலியல் வழக்கில் கைதாகியுள்ள குற்றவாளிகளை கோவையில் இருந்து சேலம் செல்லும் வழியில் விதிகளை மீறி வாகனத்தை நிறுத்தி உறவினர்களை சந்திக்க அனுமதித்த காவலர்கள் #PollachiCase #Salem #Pollachi pic.twitter.com/zsym7seSUQ
— 𝐀𝐣𝐞𝐞𝐭𝐡 𝐊𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐡𝐧𝐚𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐲 (@AskAjeethK) October 21, 2021
The video was shared widely on social media and soon went viral, drawing heavy criticism from social media users who were irate that the accused were being given special treatment.
Following the outrage, Salem police commissioner Najmul Hoda suspended seven police personnel who were part of the team escorting the accused, which included sub-inspector Subramanium as well as Karthik, Prabhu, Velkumar, Natrajan, Rajesh and Rajkumar.
The Pollachi sexual assault case came to light after a 19-year-old college student filed a complaint in February, 2019. She detailed that she had been sexually assaulted by four men in a car. The men took a video of the assault and blackmailed the victim, threatening to share the video if they were not given payment.
After the victim confided to her parents, her brother was assaulted by friends of the accused, a police report was filed and four of the accused were subsequently arrested.
Following the arrests, media reports unearthed that this was not an isolated incident and that an organised sexual abuse racket had been operating in the state, reportedly since 2013 and that hundreds of women had been made victims of the ring, according to the Indian Express.
Women were, allegedly, befriended by men on social media after which they were asked to meet up with them in secluded areas. There, the men would assault them while others recorded videos which they used to extort further sexual favours and eventually, money from them. The 19-year-old victim was apparently the first of many to file a complaint, the others remaining silent for fear of the social stigma attached to sexual assault.
The subsequent handling of the situation by the police also drew criticism as, in one instance, a police superintendent even referred to the victim by name while addressing the media. Soon after, the videos of the assaults started making the rounds on social media.
The case even assumed political dimensions as allegations surfaced of affiliations between the accused and the AIADMK. One AIADMK-affiliate, A. Nagaraj, was accused of assaulting the victim’s brother. Although his involvement could not be proved, he was later expelled.
Protests from women’s organisations followed as well, highlighting the social ramifications of the developments and familial sanctions and subsequent harassment.
The CBI took over the case in April, 2019.