Every time I see a police jeep or a khaki uniform, I am terrified. I hide until the jeep goes away.
I and my three sisters-in-law are afraid the police will rape us again. Like they did that Sunday.
We are Irulas and because we live far from the village on this secluded spot, we don’t get many visitors. If villagers want us to work in their fields, they ask us while we are passing by.
Three policemen came here that day in November 2012. I knew it was bad news as soon as I saw them. It is common for police to accuse us whenever there’s a theft in T Mandapam village.
They ordered my husband to go with them to the police station and when he refused, they rained blows on him and dragged him and the other men away to Tirukovilur, some 10 km away.
Later, around 8 pm, when it was pitch dark, more policemen came in a jeep. I and my sisters-in-law were about to go to sleep when they surrounded us.
Policemen entered our huts and took away whatever valuables we had — gold, Rs 2,000 in cash and four mobile phones. Then they packed the four of us in the jeep and took us to a eucalyptus grove away from the village.
Before we could realise what was happening, four men came and pulled out one of my sisters-in-law, who was three months pregnant, and raped her. Our cries for help only made them laugh.
They raped all of us. My turn came last.
We went looking for our husbands from one police station to another the next day. They were tortured and forced to accept a theft they had not committed. We were scared for our men who were now in Cuddalore central jail.
No one wanted to help us. After going from door to door for three days, we found a lawyer, who gave us shelter for a night and food to eat, but he too refused to help us.
It was then that we went to Vilupuram and met Ramesh and Kalyani sir, founders of Pazhangkudi Irular Pathukappu Sangam that works for the protection of Irulas.
For us, they are gods. It is because of them we are alive today.
Ramesh sir allowed us to stay in his house for nearly a month. He and Kalyani sir helped us write the complaint and took us to big officers.
At the Vilupuram superintendent of police office, lady police constables pressurised us to withdraw the complaint. Even the policemen who raped us asked us why we were making such a fuss about something that was normal for people like us and threatened us.
Finally, five policemen were suspended because of the magistrate’s report and the government also gave us Rs 5 lakh each as compensation.
But police only helps police and the five men are now back, working in a different district.
They should be hacked to death in full public view for what they did to us. But they have been given back their jobs instead.
We are scared now. They haven’t attacked us only because of Kalyani and Ramesh sir. But, they cannot be with us all the time. We want protection but not by police.
It’s still okay during the day, but at night, I and my sisters-in-law panic at the slightest hint of a sound. We would like to live near people but we can’t afford that.
So we pray to god. We pray to him to save us and punish the men from that horrible November night.
(As told to KV Lakshmana)