What is the Pollachi sexual assault and extortion case: A detailed explainer

On February 12 this year, Priya (name changed), a 19-year-old college student in Pollachi, was called by her acquaintance, Sabarirajan, who told her that he wanted to discuss something important with her alone. Sabarirajan, who also goes by the name Riswandh, asked Priya to meet him at a bus stop in Pollachi, and when Priya reached there in the afternoon, Sabarirajan was standing near a car along with his friend Thirunavukkarasu, another acquaintance of Priya. The duo asked her to get into the car with them, and said they would talk on the way. While Thirunavukkarasu started the car, Sabarirajan was sitting in the back seat with Priya. And suddenly, two more men – Sathish and Vasanthkumar – got in. The four of them forcefully disrobed Priya and shot a video, and snatched a gold chain she was wearing. They threatened her that if she did not do as they said, and provide them with sexual favours and money when they demanded it, they would upload the video on the internet. When she screamed and cried, they left her in the middle of the road and drove away.

Upset and scared, Priya did not reveal the incident to her family. But when the men blackmailed her and tried to extort money from her multiple times, Priya decided to take her family into confidence.

Her brother Subhash (name changed) then tracked down Thirunavukkarasu and Sabarirajan, beat them up, and unearthed what is perhaps an elaborate and scary sexual violence and extortion racket. Subhash and his friends got hold of Thirunavukkarasu and Sabarirajan’s cell phones, which contained videos of at least three other women that the men may have blackmailed. The family submitted this to the Pollachi police, along with a complaint of sexual harassment and robbery.

The police have filed an FIR on February 24 against Sabarirajan, Thirunavukkarasu, Sathish and Vasanthkumar under sections 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (assault or use of criminal force against woman with intent to disrobe), and 394 (robbery) of the IPC; section 66E of the IT Act (violation of privacy); and section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Women Act (sexual harassment).

The rape and extortion racket

Priya’s ordeal and the phones collected from the four accused has revealed a massive racket run by the four men, and allegedly several other men – and the police is looking into who the perpetrators of these crimes are. They have asked other victims to come forward with their experiences with these men.

TNM has learned some details of the modus operandi of these men was. One of them – usually Sabarirajan alias Riswandh – would lure women to a secluded house or hotel, and either force himself on them or convince them to have sex.

All the while, his accomplices – hidden from view – would shoot the act on a camera.

If it was a sexual assault, one of the accomplices would barge in and pretend to be a saviour, while the other men continued to shoot the video. At least one such video of a young woman who was sexually assaulted by Riswandh (alias Sabarirajan) has been released by a Tamil magazine. TNM will not share the video, or other videos that are circulating.

In the videos that the men have shot, the young women can be heard naming Riswandh (alias Sabarirajan) multiple times. In one of these videos, Thirunavukkarasu can be clearly seen.

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