Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kerala forest guards held for 'raping' family of tourists

ublished: Jul 22, 2010 00:25 Updated: Jul 22, 2010 00:25

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Police in Kerala have arrested three forest guards after a website released mobile video clips showing them stripping and parading a mother and daughter who arrived here as tourists.

The arrests follow the opposition allegation in the state assembly that the guards tied up the husband and raped his wife and daughter in thick forests. The mother and daughter were also seen stripped and paraded in a video clipping appeared on

The family was holidaying at the border area of Aryankavu which is part of Thanmala, India's first planned ecotourism destination of Thenmala, 72 km from the state capital. The family, from the neighboring Tamil Nadu state, is yet to be traced.

The Forest Department had suspended them from service immediately after the opposition raised the issue in the assembly last week. On Tuesday, the police arrested the guards seen stripping the women, Manikantan, 24, Shahul Hameed, 33, and Unnikrishnan, 43, who is also former president of the Forest Protection Council.

"We have booked them under the relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act and Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and they were produced in the court today," Forest Minister Binoy Vishwam told the assembly Wednesday.

The police took the trio to the tourist spot for gathering evidence before producing in the Magistrate Court in Punalur. They have also recovered the original version of the video clip from them and more arrests are expected soon.

The minister who confirmed the rape however expressed the inability of the police to charge them with the crime as the family did not come forward to file a complaint. The Kerala police had sought the cooperation of their counterparts in Tamil Nadu to trace them but made no breakthrough so far, he said.

The shocking incident was narrated in the House by Congress legislator V.D. Satishan who alleged that the government was going slow on the case because one of the culprits is a local leader of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy was soon on his feet demanding stringent action against them.

The minister said the trio was engaged on a daily wages basis and they were on the payroll for nearly a decade now. A team headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police (Narcotic Cell) Varadarajan is investigating the case supervised by Inspector General Hemachandran.

"We respect the sentiments of the house and we are viewing this very seriously. We have nothing to hide and we are not protecting anybody," the minister said amidst the protests by the opposition legislators who alleged that the government was shielding the culprits.

The opposition members also alleged that this was not the first incident involving the forest guards and more guards were involved in the crime. Such incidents would hit the state's booming tourism industry.

Thenmala, which attracts foreign and domestic tourists, is also a favorite shooting location for south Indian films. The ecotourism project's attractions include boating on the lake, a rope bridge, trekking, mountaineering, biking and wildlife.

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