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Protests erupt after sexual assault videos go viral in India

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CHENNAI: Student protests rocked the Indian state of Tamil Nadu yesterday aftervideos showing sexual assaults on college students were posted online.

Outrage increased after police said the footage was part of a plot by a group of men to befriend college students on social media, meet and sexually assault them and then use the footage to blackmail the victims.

"Watching the video of a girl begging her assailants to let her go was chilling," said student Captain Prabhakar, 21, who took part in a protest in Coimbatore. "In many of these areas, girls stepping out of their homes to attend college is a big deal. We fear cases like this will result in restrictions being imposed again on girls."

The number of crimes against women reported to police in India rose by 83 per cent from 2007 to 2016, according to government data, which showed that four rape complaints were reported every hour in 2016.

Four men in Pollachi were arrested after a 19-year-old woman lodged a complaint, the Tamil Nadu police wrote in a report to the government on Wednesday.

Police are trying to identify other victims based on footage recovered from the mobile phones of the four accused men. At least five sexual assault videos have been posted on social media.

In her police complaint, the student said she was sexually assaulted by a group of men inside a car, one of whom she knew, and that her ordeal was recorded.

Student protesters and women's rights campaigners demanded police swiftly investigate the assaults and provide protection for the victims, many of whom have since been identified.

"The need of the hour is to help other victims break their silence and come forward with their complaints," said Mr Henri Tiphagne, director of human rights' charity People's Watch.

The National Commission for Women, a statutory body, sent a letter to police stating that it was "seriously concerned about the safety and security of women in Tamil Nadu". - REUTERS