Pollachi case: Anger, frustration grips town
"The sexual abuse-blackmail case is unbelievable, shocking and shameful. Pollachi, an agricultural-cum-business town, always commanded respect from people in Tamil Nadu. But now its reputation is in tatters," a hotelier said.
Four youths -- Thirunavukkarasu, Sathish, Sabarirajan and Vasanthakumar, all in their 20s -- have been accused of assaulting women and filming their act to blackmail them for money or for physical submission for over seven years.
"Sabarirajan's father is a pious man, a hardworking mason. It is unbelievable that his son was involved in this," the hotelier said.
As the sordid details started oozing out, upset residents and students hit the streets demanding action against the accused. The district administration was forced to declare holiday for colleges as students seethed with anger and frustration. Students from other towns also joined the protests.
Political parties and social organisations were also not far behind.
"More than the girls, the boys have to be brought up carefully with proper counselling and monitoring" is the common refrain in the town.
"Recently, I was in Madurai. There the driver of the taxi I hired was courteous and helpful. But when he came to know that I was from Pollachi, his attitude changed. He became silent. That in itself is a message," Ganesh, a resident of Pollachi, told IANS.
He also wondered how the accused continued to abuse women for over seven years.
The house where the girls were abused belonged to Thirunavukkarasu. The people of the area were unaware of the happenings inside that house.
Neighbours of the accused, too, are surprised to know that the boy next door was involved in this horrible crime.
The town is famous for coconut and various other agri-products.
"Till 1980s different crops like sugarcane, turmeric, paddy and coconut were grown here. As getting agriculture labour became difficult, some land owners turned towards coconut farming or sold their lands to real estate developers," a senior resident of the town told IANS.
He said: "Pollachi was famous in the region and commanded respect. Now, the reputation built over decades has been spoiled by the deeds of these accused."
The residents want the accused to be punished early to deter others from indulging in any such activity.
The view is shared not just by the residents of the town but also the state as well as the nation.
Speaking to reporters in Chennai, noted music director Illaiyaraaja said: "My feelings on the Pollachi issue is similar to the feeling prevailing in every heart."
The Editor of Pollachi Papyrus, Pravin Shanmughanandam, said: "Such a sordid incident has happened because the Pollachi society has lost sight of its heritage, tradition and culture. From traditionally hard working agricultural and entrepreneurial town, Pollachi has now become a profit-chasing town.
"People today do not know what Pollachi was all about. Now it is more money minded unlike yesteryear."
The elderly should now allow the youth who knows Pollachi's tradition to have a say in the town affairs. There should be people participation in all aspects affecting Pollachi, he said.
"In Coimbatore, there are various forums to voice their views. There influential people come out and voice their views. Such a thing was not happening in Pollachi and at least now it starts now," the editor told IANS.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at email@example.com)