In an unusually late press conference which started around 1.40 am on Friday, the Mumbai police said 14 people were arrested for molesting two women during New Year celebrations in Juhu. One of them surrendered after his parents and neighbours brought him to the Juhu police station.
<b1>Mumbai's Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) KL Prasad said 14 people had been arrested, among whom one surrendered after seeing his photographs in the media. The police claimed to have established the identity of four people shown in the HT photographs.
Prasad said one arrested person was from Kandivli, the rest from Vile Parle. He said the people seen in the photos as touching the girls claimed in their defence that they had been pushed by the crowd, and were not attempting mischief.
Two set of mobs were involved in the incident. The police were still looking for the man seen in the photos in a white shirt and red vest. Eyewitness identification will be done on Friday.
HT photographers Satish Bate and Prasad Gori had captured the incident on their cameras while covering the revelry in front of the JW Marriott hotel. The HT report on January 2 triggered a blaze of news coverage across the nation and prompted the police to act.
After clicking photos of a mob molesting the women, the photographers had called the police and taken the couples to the police station. After the police delayed taking action for 36 hours saying there had been no official complaint, Bate and Gori went ahead and filed a police complaint on Wednesday. By then, TV channels across India were alight with outrage.
On Thursday afternoon, a stung police force promised to catch the New Year molesters by January 10. In a week, the suspects would be paraded for identification by the victims, said Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) KL Prasad.
"We learnt that they (the non-resident Indian victims and their relatives) planned to fly back to the US by January 10. We have asked the force to wrap up the arrests by then," Prasad said. He said the regional additional commissioner of police and the zonal deputy commissioner of police had spoken to the victims and their relatives over telephone and conveyed this.
He, however, made it clear that the victims would be treated as witnesses and not complainants. "In this case, we (the police) are the complainant," he said.
To track down the molesters, the police released the HT photographs instead of the usual sketches.
Thursday Night's Catch (based on unconfirmed reports)
Ravindra Shukla alias Bunty, 27
He runs a sandwich stall at Vile Parle and lives in Kandivli.
Nilesh Bhyatkar, 18
Failed SSC, father does paint jobs in buildings. The family lives at Siddhivinayak building, Vile Parle. He surrendered after his parents and neighbours held a meeting on the building premises and decided to hand him over.
(Additional input provided by HT reporters)