Victims in the Anbu Jothi Ashram case shared their horrifying experiences with the fact-finding team of the National Commission for Women (NCW) at the Government Hospital in Villupuram on Saturday.
Police sources said the NCW took suo motu cognizance of the case based on media reports and constituted a fact-finding team to inquire into the allegations of torture and sexual assault of ashram inmates. After meeting the Chief Secretary in Chennai, the team arrived in Villupuram to record the statements of the victims.
“Two women have given statements that they were subjected to sexual harassment. We will submit a report to the Commission upon completion of the inquiry,” a member of the fact-finding team told journalists.
The team met about 14 victims who were admitted to the hospital and recorded their statements. They would also visit the ashram at Kundalapuliyur village and look into the circumstances leading to the incidents and meet district officials and others having knowledge of the matter, the sources said.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Director-General of Police C. Sylendra Babu has ordered a probe by the Crime Branch-CID into the allegations. The CB-CID will also investigate complaints that many residents of the ashram, who were shifted to a Home in Bengaluru, had gone missing. The local police have arrested ashram owner Jubin Baby, 45, and his wife Maria, 43, of Kerala, and their associates on charges of rape and assault, among others.
The ashram, registered under the Nalla Samariyar Charitable Trust, had been functioning without a licence as a Home for persons with mental illnesses and retardation, destitute women, beggars, and alcohol addicts, at Kundalapuliyur in Villupuram district since 2005, the sources said.
The sources said more people were turning up with complaints that their family members, admitted to the ashram over the past two years, were missing. The allegation is that after a few months of “treatment”, the ashram used to send batches of its residents, including women, to Homes in Karnataka and Rajasthan. A batch of 15 residents sent to the New ARK Mission of India, Bengaluru, allegedly escaped by breaking open the window panes of a bathroom, and their whereabouts are not known. Investigators have written to the Bengaluru city police to probe the circumstances in which these residents escaped, the sources said.
The Forest Department has seized the two monkeys used to scare and attack residents at the ashram and invoked provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, against Jubin Baby. After receiving information that the ashram owner used monkeys to scare and attack residents who refused to cooperate, a Forest Department team arrived at the scene a couple of days ago.
Knowing that the law-enforcement agencies were arriving, the ashram staff opened the cage and let the monkeys escape. However, the two monkeys remained on the building terrace and in trees in the vicinity, the sources said. When the ashram owner tried to catch them, one of the monkeys bit him. Another team that arrived from Villupuram caught the monkeys and moved them to safety, the sources said.