TN Teen Alleges Harassment by Teacher; Attacked by Father, Mob
Image used for representation.
Image used for representation.(Photo: The Quint)

TN Teen Alleges Harassment by Teacher; Attacked by Father, Mob

“They were yelling that they wanted to kill me and my daughter while attacking us,” Lily* tells TNM, her voice quivering. She was on her way to the Ooty Government Hospital on Monday, with her 16-year-old daughter Riya*, who had suffered face and head injuries on Sunday, 27 October evening after a mob attacked her. Just two days earlier, Riya had filed a police complaint accusing her karate teacher of sexual misconduct, and the priest at her church of neglecting the allegations.

Riya had alleged that her karate teacher had touched her inappropriately and made sexually-charged remarks to her, in her complaint to the Gudalur police. Though she had informed Father Johny Elavunkal of St Mary’s Church, Vimalagiri, where the karate classes were held, she claims that the priest took no action in the case.

Word of Riya’s accusations against the teacher and priest eventually spread, and triggered a mob of around 60 persons to lay siege on their house in Gudalur on Sunday evening. What’s worse, the group allegedly included her father and his relatives.

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Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

Riya took karate lessons from Sabu at both her school and at the church which is a part of the Mananthavady Diocese.

“One day in May, he touched me inappropriately and made sexual remarks at me at school. I and three other girls complained to the principal of the school and I stopped going to karate classes at school and at church. Though the principal assured us that he would take stringent action, he didn’t do anything about it. He also made the other three girls change their stance on the issue,” Riya tells The News Minute.

Church Allegedly Tries to Protect Teacher

After Riya stopped going to church for karate classes, Father Johny Elavunkal allegedly asked why she was absent.

“I told the Father everything. He assured me that he would take action, but till date no action has been taken against him.”
Riya, Victim

After Riya’s complaint to the priest was ignored, Riya’s parents decided to escalate the issue and spoke to the parents of other girls at the school who were also victims. “The other parents, however, went and complained to Johny Elavunkal about this, which led to him insulting Riya and her parents in public at a Sunday mass about two weeks ago,” a source close to Riya’s family says, on the condition of anonymity.

The Mananthavady diocese, which St Mary’s Church is a part of, has been mired in controversy in past cases as well. In February 2019, Fr Robin Vadakkanchery of the Mananthavady diocese was convicted of raping and impregnating a minor girl in 2016. When the minor child had delivered a baby the priest and others at the church had exerted such pressure on the family that the biological father of the girl made a false claim that he had raped her. Though this was done to let the priest off the hook, he was finally convicted in February 2019.

The First Police Complaint

The priest’s public insult pushed Riya and her mother to approach the police with a complaint against the teacher, the school principal and Father Johny Elavunkal.

Attack by the Church Mob

A source close to Riya’s family said that though Riya’s father had initially supported her, he later changed his mind and sided with the church.

After word of Riya’s complaint against the priest spread, a mob of men that allegedly included Riya’s father and relatives, forced their way into the home and attacked Riya around 7:30 pm on Sunday. They bolted the door from the inside and physically assaulted Riya, both mother and daughter claim.

“When the mob attacked us, they were asking us why we complained against father Johny Elavunkal. They (the mob) had two machetes with which they were coming towards us, but someone stopped them. They were trying to kill us.”
Lily, Victim’s mother

The attack left Riya badly injured and her mother distraught. On Monday, Riya was taken to the Gudalur government hospital after she complained of pain in her ear and head. Doctors there referred her to Ooty Government Hospital due to the severity of the injuries.

A copy of the report given by a doctor at Gudalur Government Hospital, Nilgiris states that Riya has injuries on the left side of the head, ear and neck, and has difficulty in hearing in her left ear. The doctor has recommended a consultation with an ENT specialist at Ooty Government hospital.

In a second police complaint filed with Gudalur police on Monday, 28 October Lily requested police protection for herself and her daughter from the persons who attacked them.

The DSP of Gudalur acknowledged the complaint against Sabu Abraham and said that investigation is going on in the case. Meanwhile Gudalur police station told TNM that a few persons who were involved in Sunday's attack have been detained by the police and an FIR is being registered based on Lily's complaint.

(Names anonymous to hide identity)

(This article was originally published on The News Minute and has been republished here with due permission.)

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