CHENNAI: Thirty-one years after 18 women were raped in Vachathi tribal village, in Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri district, the Madras high court confirmed the conviction of all 269 government officials who had raided the settlement and brutalised the residents on the pretext of looking for sandalwood smugglers.
One of the victims was eight months pregnant at the time of the rape, and another was a 13-year-old kid. Seventeen of the accused were found guilty. While more than 50 defendants passed away during the trial, the remainder received prison terms ranging from one to ten years from the sessions court in 2011. The HC upheld all the convictions, saying, “To save actual smugglers and big shots, the officials played a big stage drama in which innocent tribal women got affected … the pain and difficulties faced by them have to be compensated in terms of money and jobs.”Justice P Velmurugan also ordered the Tamil Nadu government to immediately release ₹10,00,000 compensation to each of the 18 women, as ordered earlier by a division bench in 2016, and to recover 50% of the amount from the accused convicted of rape. The state was also directed to provide either suitable self employment or a permanent job to the 18 women or their family members.