By Maya Palit
Two women students from Tamil Nadu, who were participating in a campaign to support the protests against the hydrocabon project in Neduvasal, were apparently arrested and then strip-searched repeatedly during their time in prison.
They were part of a seven-member group travelling by train from Coimbatore to Neduvasal to join the ongoing protests in the area, which are demanding the restoration of farmers’ lands. The villagers protesting are calling for state and central intervention to stop the hydrocarbon extraction proposal because of the drastic impact it could have on the agrarian-based economy (including ground water contamination and the risk of gas leaks and explosions). The police insisted that the group, which is associated with the Students Uprising Movement for Social Awareness, had Maoist connections and were stirring up violence.
According to reports, their advocate claimed that the girls were made to strip when entering the women’s jail in Trichy on April 15th, and then six times the next day. They were apparently threatened with the prospect of violence, and verbally abused each time when they tried to protest this treatment. An older woman inmate apparently told them that the strip searches were common practice at the jail. Although the inspector at the police station has completely denied these allegations, their advocate plans to demand an extensive investigation into the matter once the women are out on bail.