On 22nd November, TN police unleashed brutality in T. Mandam hamlet of Vizhupuram district. Four women from the Irula tribal community were raped by the Tirukovilur police in the early hours of the morning.
Hearing the news, a six-member team of CPIML and AIPWA led by Party State Secretary Balasundaram visited Vizhupuram district to investigate the incident. The team members visited the Irula hamlet and the Government Hospital in Vizhupuram, where the victims were admitted for medical examination, and interacted with the relatives of the victims, leaders of Irula tribes’ association, human rights organizations, media persons and lawyers. The fact finding team comprised Com. Balasundaram, State Secretary, Com. Venkatesan, District Secretary, Com. Gopalakrishnan, Com Suseela, AIPWA district secretary, Com. Baby and Com. Ranjani.
The Irulas are a local tribe numbering barely 40000 in the Vizhupuram district. They live by catching rats, snakes and iguanas, and sometimes by working in quarrying. They are at the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of socio-economic status. It is routine for the police to slap theft charges on them and jail them. Irula men are the scapegoats in every unsolved theft case.
The team found that on the day of the incident, six men of a family were falsely implicated in theft charges and arrested by the police. Around 8 pm the police ransacked the house; the girls were beaten and forcibly pushed into the police vehicle, took them to a remote place at midnight and raped them. The girls were threatened with dire consequences if they divulged the matter.
The girls approached the District Superintendent of Police to lodge a complaint. But the SP, instead of sending them to hospital for a medical examination, or arresting the culprits, detained them in his office for 18 hours. The SP and his team, including women police, intimidated them and forced them to sign blank papers. Only after the media highlighted the issue, an FIR was filed and court proceedings began. The Madras High Court, on a PIL petition, directed the SP to send the girls for medical examination. As a damage control exercise, the Chief Minister announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation, and 5 police men have been suspended.
The fact finding team demanded that the Chief Minister Jayalalitha should own responsibility for the incident and take stringent action against the culprits immediately. They also demanded punishment for the police, an impartial enquiry by the State Women’s Commission and State Human Rights Commission and SC/ST commission, and a review of all cases filed on Irula men, and implementation of special socio- economic programmes.
CPIML and AIPWA leaders, Comrades Balasundaram, A S Kumar, Venkatesan, Ammaiappan, Thenmozhi, Devaki, Kuppabai and Lilly met the DGP on December 2, and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits and action against the SP and DIG under SC/ST Act. On December 5, a militant protest demonstration was held by CPIML and AIPWA in front of Vizhupuram Collectorate.