Dharmapuri rape: Adivasi girl dies of injuries but police arrests activists for raising the issue

Photo Credit: Grace Banu

By Ira Anbazhagan, TwoCircles.net

A week ago, the rape and the subsequent death of an Adivasi minor girl shocked Tamil Nadu. And even as the police has acted swiftly and arrested the two accused, it seems their ire is now almost exclusively against the activists who spoke in support of the family. As of Thursday, four activists are in Salem jail with their bail petition pending.

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The arrest of the activists comes at a time when it was their efforts that led to a swift investigation by the police along with the dismissal of the original investigating officer who was then replaced by a lady inspector. The four activists have been arrested under Section 7 (1)(a) in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932 which includes, among other things, loitering.

The activists made it to Arur, Dharmapuri district after they found about the rape of an Adivasi minor girl who subsequently lost her life when she was denied proper medical attention due to questionable actions of the police.

The girl, who was studying in 11th standard, had come for Diwali holidays. On Monday, when she went out for bathroom, two boys-Ramesh and Satish attacked her. “The two men wrapped her dupatta around her neck and and stuffed into her mouth and raped her. She sustained a lot of injuries from the rape,” her mother told members of the fact-finding team that visited the site.

The girl, according to her mother, was found after a man who happened to be passing by after hearing some sounds. “He found the girl, naked and unconscious following which he sprayed water on her face to wake her up…he wrapped her with his lungi and sent her home. He didn’t accompany her back,” her mother added.

After the girl reached home, she told her brother and her aunt everything that happened as he parents were still out in forest working. By the time the parents reached home, a crowd had already assembled outside their place and suggested the parents to go to the police. “I should have taken her to the hospital instead but I listened to people’s advice and went to the police station. I thought justice was important. We cannot leave these boys or they will do this to other girls,” said her mother.

However, the harassment at the police station started nearly the moment they reached the police station. The police insisted that they wouldn’t file a complaint unless the survivor came to file it herself. They kept chasing them away from the station but the parents insisted that they would not leave until the complaint was taken.

At around 8 pm, the family threatened to call the Collector and finally the police took the complaint. They told them that FIR was filed and two three police persons accompanied the family back to the village. That night, the police met the girl and she had tell the whole story again. This time they spoke to the girl alone without any of the relatives present.

Things got worse when women police officers who visited the survivor to take this statement gave explicit instructions. “The police said don’t touch her, don’t let her take a bath and don’t let anyone touch her because you will destroy the evidence,” said the victim’s mother.

Video Credit: Grace Banu

Anxious to follow instructions and do what was best for their daughter, the family followed the explicit instruction from the police to not take the girl to the hospital. But this was ultimately the reason for the child’s death.

The next day they informed the family again that only if the girl comes again to the police station and gives a full statement will they file the case. So again the family and the survivor go to the police station in the police van.  This all took place even as the girl was still wearing torn clothes from a day before.

After taking her briefly to a hospital in Arur where she was given minimal treatment, some glucose drips and an injection, the police began insisting on taking the girl to a home ( women’s safe house) in Dharmapuri.

Shockingly the police took another Rs 4,000 from the already-poor family in the name of ‘petrol’ money. The family had to seek an emergency loan from a family friend and use it to pay money to the police.

But critically, because the girl did not receive the most basic medical treatment usually administered immediately in cases of violent rape, on November 10, the girl lost her fight with life and passed away at the Dharmapuri General Hospital succumbing to her injuries. Her body was handed over to the family on November 12.

The family is yet to recover from the shock. The deceased girl was one of the few girls who had been studying at a senior school level. “This is not the reason we give birth to our children so that they can be raped and murdered. This is not why we have kids and we we have hopes for them. We educated our girl just so that she may be a path to ending the difficulties of our lives. We don’t educate our kids so that they can be murdered in broad daylight,” said an aunt of the deceased.

Video Credit: Grace Banu

But since the arrest of the accused, the attention has moved to the activists who are trying to help the family. Valarmathi, one of the arrested, had said, “Instead of addressing the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, they first unlawfully remanded 14 of us… A child was brutally raped by two men and we are not even allowed to meet the family, to speak with the family, to offer them any consolation or to grieve with them. Why are these things criminal and rape is not?” asked Valarmathi, who along with Mahalakshmi,  Vediyappan and Ramakrishna were arrested next day and sent to Salem Jail.

Grace Banu, another activist who has been trying to meet the family, said, “For 14 activists, there were around 100 police officers manhandling us driving us here and there. They wouldn’t even leave us take a bathroom break. Why arrest us like this? what crime have we done? We call for the immediate release of Valarmathi, Mahalakshmi,  Vediyappan and Ramakrishna.”