Republic Disguested: 100+ Mothers Raped, Court finds 269 Upper-Caste Guilty
The Dharmapuri court in Tamil Nadu on September 29 2011, found all 269 people accused of raping more than 100 adivasi women in the Vachathi area of the district, guilty. The brutal gang rape that sent shock waves across Tamil Nadu and India named 108 policemen, 155 forest officials and a few officials from other government departments who entered Vachathi in for a purported search for smuggled sandalwood. During the raid 180 tribal villagers were arrested including 97 women. Many villagers were reportedly assaulted and their property damaged and it was subsequently alleged that 18 women were raped.
Despite appeals to the then Chief Minister by local politicians, no immediate action was taken by the authorities to investigate the incident. Subsequently, a local member of the state Legislative Assembly filed a public interest petition in the High Court. As a result of the petition, an inquiry was made by a revenue department official who concluded that the villagers themselves could have damaged their houses in order to put the blame on the police. The investigating official reportedly did not interview any residents during his visit to the village. In February 1995, the Madras High Court ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry in order to identify those responsible for violations and to bring them to justice. A report of the CBI was subsequently submitted to the High Court.
The CBI reportedly found evidence that 18 women had been raped. As a result the court ordered interim compensation of Rs10,000 each to the women in May 1996. In addition, the CBI recommended the prosecution of 269 police and forest department officials for various offences including the molesting of tribal women, illegal detention and assault. Among the 269 officials chargesheeted by the CBI, four Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers and ten police officials were charged with concealment of evidence, atrocities on Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe people and wrongful confinement. The majority of those arrested were subsequently released on bail pending trial. Many of the accused have retired and others have enjoyed their service benefits. There are two more appeals in the High Court and the Supreme Court.
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