Tension was palpable at Kopardi in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district on Wednesday, when a team from the state reached the village to pacify the villagers, who are angry over the “poor handling of the gang-rape and murder of a minor”.
The police have so far arrested three suspects in the July 13 incident and a search is on for the fourth suspect. It took a series of meetings from various agencies through the day to address their concerns ranging from security to illegal sale of liquor and misuse of atrocities law. The state authorities also assured them a charge sheet would be filed against the culprits within a month.
The local residents felt the authorities took too long to act against the accused. Maharashtra women’s commission president Vijaya Rahatkar and Pune police commissioner Rashmi Shukla, a member of the investigating team, held meetings with the local residents, who alleged the accused were being given political protection. “We had never expected such an incident in our village. We thought our village was safe,” said Bhimabai Sudrik, a villager.
Rahatkar, along with a counsellor, a doctor and social activists, held a session with girls from the village and their parents, while Shukla promised thorough investigation and protection to women and girls.
Shukla met the family of the victim and apprised them of the investigation. She also visited the school at Kuldharan, 7km away from Kopardi, and told the villagers the police outpost near the school would be immediately operational, so the villagers can get in touch with them easily. Shukla also shared the telephone numbers of police officers and told the villagers that police personnel have been deployed near the suspects’ house to prevent any impulsive action by angry residents.
With parents stopping their girls from attending the school, the MSRTC distributed free passes to girl students. A special pick-up and drop service for girl students will be operational from Thursday.
Members of the women’s commission also spoke to girl students from the area, who said they feared they would be forced to stop education after the incident. “The police will help you immediately. You have no reason to fear,” Rahatkar told the girls.
Rahatkar told HT they will meet the parents and students till their confidence is restored. A special team comprising a woman doctor, woman activist and counsellor will visit the village at regular intervals, said the authorities. Rahatkar said a primary health centre would soon be opened in Kopardi.
The residents were also concerned about the illegal sale of country liquor and misuse of Atrocities Act.