At least two men from the mob that molested two women on early New Year’s morning in Juhu are still absconding, including a man wearing a white shirt over a red vest who was the chief perpetrator, police said on Friday. <b1>
Fourteen others, whom the city police had arrested with the help of Hindustan Times’ photographs, received bail from a court later in the day. They were moved to Arthur Road Jail and will be released on Saturday after formalities are completed.
The police asked the court for 14-day custody of the accused and opposed their bail applications, but neither request was granted. K L Prasad, joint commissioner of police, said the men had claimed they were not attempting mischief, but had been pushed forward by a surging crowd.
The police are trying to persuade the US-based victims to record their statements via video-conferencing, Prasad said. The women, who did not file a complaint, cut short their trip to India and are on their way to the US, he said.
After initially displaying a shocking indifference to the molestation, the city police finally filed a complaint on the victims’ behalf when HT’s report on January 2 triggered a blaze of nationwide news coverage and a wave of anger amongst citizens. HT photographers Satish Bate and Prasad Gori had captured the incident on their cameras while covering revelry outside the JW Marriot Hotel. The women will now be treated as witnesses, not complainants, Prasad said.
In the public mind, the incident has become a test case that will gauge how serious the Mumbai police are about cracking down on crimes against women. It has also brought into the open the kind of daily harassment that women face in public spaces: on the street, on trains and buses, in cinema halls; and how little women trust the authorities to do anything about it.
Some people also see the incident as the explosion of barely suppressed class tensions in Mumbai: almost all the accused are school dropouts and are either unemployed or do menial work, the police said.