32-year-old Latha (name changed), an employee at a medical shop in Sivaganga district, can be seen desperately shouting and begging as a window shatters from impact near her. Mobile phones slide to the ground as she put her palms together to request the men who had surrounded the shop to stop the vandalism. Near her, the owner of the shop, Ravi, can be seen in a heated conversation just outside the establishment with a man responsible for the ongoing destruction. Seconds later, Latha is on the floor clutching her forehead, unable to move.
Whether this is due to fear or from pain is unclear.
These are scenes that unfolded at the Vairam Medical shop in the district's College Road area on Saturday at 5 pm. The attack was captured on CCTVs inside and outside the establishment.
The man allegedly responsible for this vandalism was 35-year-old Pandidurai, the owner of NML bus services in the district. According to the police, he had been sexually harassing Latha who is married, over the phone. When she couldn't handle it anymore, Latha complained about the harassment to her boss Ravi during one such phone call. Ravi then took the phone from her and warned Pandidurai against harassing his employee.
Incensed by Ravi's intervention, Pandidurai allegedly brought five men to the shop on Saturday and proceeded to fling stones at the establishment. Windows were shattered and goods damaged in the process even as Ravi attempted to talk to the attackers. Both the owner and Latha suffered injuries in the attack, in addition to threats and intimidation, the police say.
"Pandidurai initially called Latha for some information, but soon after that he kept repeatedly contacting her," says an investigating officer. "Latha told Ravi this, who then got into a quarrel over it with Pandidurai on the phone. Following this, Pandidurai came with five men to the shop and vandalised it," he adds.
Pandidurai and the five men involved in the act are currently absconding. The police have formed teams to find the accused based on a complaint from Ravi. They have been booked under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 294 B (obscene acts or communication), 448 (house trespass), 506(2) (criminal intimidation) and 337 (act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life) of the Indian Penal Code.
Watch the CCTV footage from the attack: