The Tamil Nadu Police on Tuesday said the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department has taken over the Pollachi serial sexual assault and blackmail case, The Hindu reported.

The case relates to allegations that a four-member male gang have been befriending hundreds of women on social media and then sexually molesting them since 2013. In some cases, the men shot explicit videos of the women and used those to blackmail their victims, police said. The victims reportedly included college students, homemakers and working women in Pollachi.

Four men – N Satish, N Sabarirajan, T Vasanthakumar and K Thirunavukkarasu were arrested in Pollachi over the last fortnight in connection with the case. The allegations of this sexual harassment and blackmail racket came to light on February 25, when a 19-year-old college student in Pollachi filed a complaint against them for sexually harassing her. On February 24, the brother of the college student who filed the case got into a scuffle with the four men. When the police intervened, the victim’s brother explained that the accused had embarrassing pictures and videos of his sister.

Coimbatore District Collector K Rajamani on Tuesday ordered their detention under the Goondas Act. They have already been booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act. The charges under the Goondas Act allows for their detention up to a year.

Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin has claimed that the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government was shielding the accused in the case. The party’s leaders including Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi staged a protest demanding action against the accused. The police detained her for 10 minutes.

Demands for action

Actor-politician Kamal Haasan met Tamil Nadu Director General of Police TK Rajendran in Chennai and demanded action in the case. Haasan’s party, Makkal Needhi Maiam, staged a procession in Pollachi demanding justice, The News Minute reported.

The Communist Party of India and the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam have also demanded justice for the victim. CPI State secretary Mutharasan claimed that the ruling state government has supported the accused. “The anti-social gang had been for the past six to seven years indulging in serious offences like sexual harassment against women,” Mutharasan said.

Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam chief TTV Dhinakaran demanded a court monitored Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the matter.

Meanwhile, the Network of Women in Media condemned the publication of a rape video that has been shared on various platforms. “It serves no purpose and is voyeuristic,” the network said. “Please do not publish/share such content.”

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has reportedly expelled ‘Bar’ Nagaraj, a Pollachi functionary for bringing disrepute to the organisation, The Hindu reported. The official was arrested on charges of assaulting the brother of the complainant in the case.

Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu on Monday alleged that a relative of Pollachi MLA and Deputy Speaker V Jayaraman was also involved in the case. But the MLA has denied all the allegations.