Mumbai: At least 26 people, including two minors, have been arrested by the Manpada police in Maharashtra’s Dombivli for raping a 15-year-old girl over a period of nine months. The survivor has named 33 men in her complaint, Manpada police said.
According to the survivor, the sexual assaults began in January 2021. In her complaint, she accused a 20-year-old man, whom she was dating, of circulating an intimate video among his friends. The man’s associates later blackmailed the girl with the video and repeatedly raped her, the police said.
How the matter came to light
A police source said that a few days ago, the survivor had gone to a birthday party. Her maternal aunt noticed that she was distracted and busy with her phone. “The aunt took the survivor to her residence for a week and kept a watch over her. Later, she took her into confidence following which she narrated what was happening and gave details of the incidents of each month,” the source said.
The woman and her husband got in touch with a local social worker. They decided to catch the accused red-handed. They asked the girl to contact the accused and tell them that she planned to come over. As one of the accused came down to pick the victim in an auto rickshaw, the couple and the social worker followed them.
On the way, the auto rickshaw with the couple and the social worker stalled due to a puncture. The social worker then dialled the police, who came for the rescue right away. The survivor, meanwhile, reached Dombivli’s Kole village, where she was taken to a room; six of the accused were already waiting for her. The girl had sent her GPS location to her aunt, which she sent to the police.
By the time the police arrived, the accused had fled after raping the survivor.
“We nabbed two from the crime scene and the rest were caught from different parts of the area through the day on Thursday. The Wednesday incident could have been avoided if the relatives of the girl had approached the police first,” the source added.
24 men sent to police custody
According to the Manpada police, the FIR was registered on Wednesday night. “Initially, the accused she named were 29, but after we again spoke to her in detail, she gave us the details of a total of 33 accused,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 3) Sachin Gunjal, said.
According to the statement of the survivor, she was sexually abused from January 29,2021, to September 22, 2021, in various locations, including Dombivli, Murbad and Badlapur in the Thane district and Rabale in Navi Mumbai.
A case against the accused, including two juvenile boys, was registered under sections 376, 376 (N), 376 (3), 376 (D) (A) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 4, 6 and 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Of the 26 accused nabbed, two have been sent to a juvenile home. Rest of the accused have been sent to police custody till September 29.
Special Investigation Team formed
Additional Commissioner of Police (East region) Datta Karale said that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed to investigate the case. The SIT will be headed by Assistant Commissioner of Police (Administration) Sonali Dhole.
“As per the information provided to us, the survivor was not pregnant. Her medical was done immediately after the FIR was filed,” Karale said.
“We have seized all the mobile phones of the accused and are yet to find the video which was used to blackmail the girl. There are chances that it could have been deleted and we will send the mobile phones for forensic test,” senior police inspector Dadahari Choure, Manpada police station, said.
According to the police, the accused are aged between 16-23 years. Some of them are students, some daily-wagers, but all of them know each other. The survivor, too, comes from a lower income background — her father is a daily-wager, mother a homemaker. She is a Class 9 student and lives with her parents and a nine-year-old sister.
The police said her father’s mobile phone used to be with the girl as she would take online school classes due to the pandemic.
Thackeray government comes under fire
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Chitra Wagh reached the Manpada police station on Wednesday to question the authorities over the crime. After her visit, she tweeted: “Maharashtra’s honor has gone down with shame. In Dombivali, a 14-year-old girl was raped by 33 people. The numbers are likely to rise as police investigations continue. Mr. Chief Minister, every day the reputation of the state is being tarnished. Do you still think the demand for a special session of the Assembly is inappropriate?”
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said, “An atmosphere of fear is prevailing in the state. The increase in the number of such incidents is worrisome. The accused should be punished severely. The state government needs to pay immediate and serious attention to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.”
Shalini Thackeracy, general secretary of the Maharashtra Navnirman sena, tweeted, “The gangrape in Dombivli sends a shiver down the spine. What more needs to happen for the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to realise that Maharashtra is no different than Delhi or Uttar Pradesh?”
Thane’s Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde, in a statement released on Thursday, said,” The incident of gangrape on a minor girl in Dombivli is extremely unfortunate, reprehensible and a blot on humanity. I have spoken to the Thane Police commissioner and issued instructions to arrest whoever is involved in the offence. In order to ensure that there are no repeats of such a grave crime, not only will the accused be punished in the strictest way possible, but instructions have also been given to handle every single complaint of crimes against women speedily and strictly.”
The incident comes days after a woman was raped and murdered in Mumbai’s Saki Naka.