Police in the southernmost Indian town of Kanyakumari have arrested a man for allegedly sexually assaulting minor boys at a government hostel, where he worked as a cook. Of 21 students residing at the hostel, nine have complained that Vishwambaran used to force them to engage in oral and penetrative sex after getting drunk in the night.
The boys, aged between eight and 13, who filed written complaints on 28 January, added that the abuse has been happening for the past three months. The accused has been charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Posco).
According to local daily Deccan Chronicle, the victims also claimed that the accused threatened to kill them if they spoke out about the molestation incidents.
"He targeted the younger children because they would be too scared to say anything," Kumudha, the district child welfare officer, was quoted as saying by online news portal, The Newsminute.
"The children told us that he would get inebriated and strip off all his clothes. He would then dance naked in front of the young boys to songs with sexually explicit lyrics and sleep next to them like that. He would say that he'd pay money if they performed oral sex on him. And if they refused he beat them up," she added.
The alleged incident reportedly came to light after some students failed to bring their homework notebooks to school. When questioned, they told their teacher that Vishwambaran had bargained their study materials in exchange for alcohol. Further questioning led them to disclose the cook's other alleged criminal activities, including sexual molestation and rape.
"The details of the letter almost made me cry," the headmistress who collected written complaints from the victims told the online news outlet. "The children had described brutal acts of sexual assault and repeated rape. They couldn't even correctly name what he had done."
Initially, the headmistress tried to solve the matter internally by warning the cook but he allegedly beat up one of the students so severely that the boy bled from the forehead. The alleged violence prompted her to report the matter to police.
"It was a shocking situation. The children were traumatised by the long suffering at the hands of that cook. His assistant Wilson was a silent spectator. Vishwambaran has now been arrested while Wilson has gone missing", district collector Sajjan Singh R Chavan said.
A manhunt has also been launched to locate the assistant, he added.
Local media reports stated that in light of the recent incident, Chavan ordered police teams to carry out inspections at other hostels in the city to see if they are safe and the students are taken care of well.
"We will now have complaint boxes in all the hostels, regular parent meetings and also medical examination for the inmates, besides counselling by experts. We will not let another such tragedy to happen again," Kumudha said, detailing measures they are set to undertake to make hostels safer for children.