Media’s ‘late’ reaction to Pollachi, $45 million pay-off, Arunachal CM accused

The 14 March edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader Kanimozhi has criticised the Tamil Nadu police for releasing the name of a survivor in the Pollachi sexual assault case. Photo: Screengrab from Rajya Sabha TV

The extortion and sexual assault of at least four women by a gang of men in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, is fast becoming a political hot button in the state. The case was first reported last month (and was mentioned in the 24 February edition of this newsletter), but hit the national headlines only this week after a video of one of the assaults went “viral” on social media and triggered protests across Tamil Nadu.

The $45 million “exit package” given by Google to Indian-born executive Amit Singhal, who was accused of groping an employee, has also been covered extensively in the Indian media.

Editor’s pick

The news media “has to walk a a tightrope between sensationalising and normalising sexual assault”, writes Anunaya Rajhans in his piece on how easy it is to become numb to India’s rape problem. He also outlines what stakeholders, including the media, should do to guard against indifference from settling in.

Across India: news since Monday

The Madras High Court “came down heavily on Delhi-based media outlets” for not giving sufficient coverage to sexual assault incidents from other regions, reported The News Minute. The court, says the report, “chided the media” for not giving adequate attention to the Pollachi case, involving a string of sexual assaults and extortion attempts by a group of men.

Although the case was first reported last month, it has received nation-wide attention only since this week, having already caused “an uproar in Tamil Nadu”. Although four suspects were arrested last month, NDTV listed a series of police “lapses”, including naming a survivor, resulting in the transfer of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The case has already caused a “political firestorm”. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Kanimozhi has alleged that the police named the survivor to “silence” other women, while her party colleague MK Stalin has said that the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) tried to “influence” in the investigation.

Rape culture

It is still not clear how many women in Pollachi were targeted by the men (some reports suggest there were as many as 200 over several years), but only one family has come forward so far. According to the Wire, as long as “stigma against sexual assault victims continues, so will cases like Pollachi”. The case, says the report, “is a telling reminder of a larger social problem: the dangers to women of even making a complaint”.

The News Minute noted other aspects of rape culture that the Pollachi case has brought out: while some outraged people have been making rape threats against women family members of the suspects, others are commenting about the Pollachi victims being “damaged goods”. The story also takes stock of the “shameful” but “not surprising” voyeurism surrounding the case.

In Kolar district, Karnataka, a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a man and then forced to “marry” him by his wife. The couple have been arrested.

The Assam Tribune has reported that several young Assamese women employed under the government’s skills training programme, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), were placed in Hyderabad spas and sexually abused. The report says the girls’ allegations have “raised a question mark over the safety component of the Central government’s flagship programme”.

Politics and rape

The Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, has been accused by a woman of raping her 10 years ago, when she was 15. She has approached the Supreme Court to “seek protection and pursue legal remedies”, reported DNA, after a local authorities dismissed her complaint. She has also alleged that the police in Arunachal threatened to frame her and her husband, reported the Print.

In the Unnao rape case, a policeman who was charged with helping accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar has been granted bail.

Sexual harassment

Tech giant Google has paid $45 million to Amit Singhal, an Indian-born senior executive who was accused of sexually harassing another employee in 2016. The company reportedly found the complainant’s allegations to be “credible”.

Bollywood director Rajkumar Hirani has been nominated for two Filmfare awards “despite sexual assault charges” against him, leading to criticism on social media. Huffpost India, which broke the story on the allegations, opined that this development shows how “nothing shines better on the red carpet than the empty morals of Bollywood”.

On screen

The Hindi film Mere Pyare Prime Minister, which the filmmaker says was inspired by news reports on rape, is due to be released tomorrow. According to a Firstpost review, “it is a relief to see a mainstream Hindi film maker zeroing in on the risk that poor women take every day” when they are forced to go outdoors to relieve themselves. It also lauds the film for not consigning a the sexual assault survivor to “eternal mournful misery…allowing her instead to try to move on with her life with laughter”.

Delhi Crime, a short series based on the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape case, will be available on Netflix from March 22. The release of the trailer (watch it here) has been reported across the media.

Assault of minors

In Uttar Pradesh, a 15-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was abducted and sexually assaulted by four men in a car. The victim was returning with her brother from a wedding in Bulandshahr when the attack took place. No arrests have been made so far.

A 55-year-old man has been arrested in Delhi for allegedly raping a minor. A woman teacher who reportedly facilitated the assaults is also under arrest.

Read more

This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.

See a fuller list of rape and sexual violence cases reported today, and earlier this week.

Use our case filter to read reports on specific cases: #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, #RapeOfMinors, #Muzaffarapur, #PoliticsOfRape (use the dropdown menu in column A).

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