The police, on Wednesday, registered a case in connection with complaints of sexual harassment of a group of girl students belonging to nomadic families staying near Kumbla town.

The incident triggered protests, leading to the arrest of five protestors. The police registered the case under provisions of Section 376 (Rape) of the Indian Penal Code on a complaint by a 10-year-old girl who alleged that she was raped by a petty trader running a roadside gambling racket. The suspect was still at large, a senior official of the Kumbla police station said on Wednesday.

The police took action after activists of Childline, a voluntary organisation here, lodged a complaint with the Superintendent of Police, Kasaragod, of molestation of minor girls studying at a school in Kumbla, on the basis of information provided by the school authorities.

So far, the police have received complaints of sexual harassment from nine girls.

Unofficial reports here said as many as 20 children had been molested for months .

The incident came to light after the school teachers enquired about the money in possession of the girls who then revealed about the harassment. The children belong to poor families that are said to have migrated to Kumbla from Hassan in Karnataka. An activist of Childline said they had enquired into the alleged incident following information that a few ‘mudka' (gambling) traders in the town were sexually harassing girls studying in classes V to VII by offering them inducements.

K. Rajeev, Sub-Inspector of Police, Kumbla, said the complaint stated that the harassment had been going on for nearly two years. The prime accused, Narasimha Naik, a gambler, was at large. No arrests had been made.

A group of youth activists from various political parties, seeking arrest of the culprits, took out a march in the town in which the property of five mudka traders was damaged. The police took five activists in custody for indulging in violence.