An angry mob torched 20 vehicles and tension prevailed in Nashik on Sunday after a 5-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a 15-year-old at Talegaon in Trimbakeshwar, around 175km from Mumbai, prompting the state government to appeal for peace.
As rumours about the incident spread through social media, the protesters blocked the Mumbai-Agra highway at Ghoti toll plaza near Igatpuri, leading to traffic snarls through the day. They set ablaze police vehicles, state transport buses and also the house of the suspect, who was taken into custody within a few hours of the incident.
The police resorted to a lathicharge and fired a few rounds in the air to disperse the mob. Swift action by the police and a clarification by doctors that the minor was not raped, but sexually assaulted, helped bring the situation under control by evening.
“There have been instances of arson and the police have taken action. The accused is in our custody and the girl and her family has been given security. People should not resort to violence, and we appeal to everyone to not believe in rumours,” Satish Mathur, director general of police, Maharashtra, told HT.
Some protesters were heard shouting the ‘Ek Maratha Lakh Maratha’ slogan, a call given by the Maratha community during the ongoing statewide stir triggered by the rape and murder of minor girl at Kopardi village on July 13.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who spoke to top police officials in Nashik, appealed for calm and asked people not to believe rumours.
“Mahajan has visited the girl and her family. The accused has been arrested. We will try the case in a fast-track court to ensure strictest punishment for the accused,” said Fadnavis. “Some people are trying to spread false rumours. We appeal to citizens to not fall prey to such attempts meant to endanger the law and order situation in the state.”
Mahajan termed the incident as “unfortunate” and said a rape attempt was made on the girl and announced that senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam will be appointed as prosecutor in the case.
Police sources said the accused befriended the girl and her elder sister, and asked the latter to buy biscuits from a shop, while he took the 5-year-old to a secluded spot and sexually assaulted her. The girl, who was later taken to a hospital, is currently in a stable condition, said sources.
The accused, meanwhile, has been booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).