Protest was in support of law student who had filed a complaint against staff of retail store

It took a three hour-long protest by law students on Friday for city police to act on a complaint filed by their college-mate a day earlier, alleging sexual harassment by staff of Saravana Stores, T. Nagar.

The students, studying in Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, gathered near the Madras High Court in large numbers protesting delay in action by the police, a day after the third-year student made the complaint at the police commissioner’s office. Following the agitation, police arrested Sunil Kumar, floor manager of the store and a security guard, Lingeshwari.

According to the student, who had gone shopping to the store on Wednesday, she was handed a bill with the wrong date at the counter. “When I asked them to change the date, the person at the cash counter abused me verbally. I was then taken to the office of the floor manager where three men frisked me.” She said she was allowed to go only when she screamed and people assembled near the store insisted that she be freed.

The girl said the floor manager then accused her of shoplifting. “They took out Rs 60 from my pocket. They abused me saying that I should not act like I have bought goods worth Rs. 26,000 when I have purchased items worth just Rs. 26,” she said. The employees also confiscated her ID card bag and forced her to leave her thumb inscription on a blank paper, she said.

Her friends said that she had filed a complaint at the Commissioner’s office on Thursday.

“She gave a written complaint there but officials told her that a case could be registered only at T. Nagar police station. They told her to leave her contact details with them and that T. Nagar police officials would contact her immediately,” said M. Rajeshwari, a protester and student of the college.

However, when no action was taken for almost one whole day, she approached her fellow students who decided to go on strike till action was initiated. Angry students squatted in the vicinity of the High Court demanding the police take action immediately. “Women are taken for granted so easily. Even their complaints are not taken seriously. This is a reminder to all of us, to report every case of abuse and to make sure action is taken,” said K. Sujatha, a student-protester at the college.

Police sources said the delay in action was because no FIR was lodged at T. Nagar police station. “We were informed about the incident only today after senior officials took note of the protest. Now, a case has been registered against two people under two IPC sections, including under Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Women Harassment Act.”

“We have already arrested two persons identified by the victim. We are now investigating the case and soon, the other two people will be arrested too,” said a senior official at T. Nagar Police station.

Saravana Stores officials, when contacted, said the student was frisked only because a guard had spotted her applying a nail polish at the store. The student, however, denied having done so.

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