On October 24, 2014, a nine-year-old girl was brutally raped in the Wadala TT area, and had to be hospitalised for several days. The accused was caught more than a month later while attempting to sexually assault a six-year-old girl in the same area. Locals caught him taking the child behind the bushes.
In March, 2014, a 20-year-old woman was molested by three men in broad daylight on a road in Worli. When the woman, who was on her way to a friend’s office, confronted the men, the trio slapped her and even dragged her by her hair. They were later arrested by the police.
Nearly thousand acres of land in the heart of the city captures the constantly changing landscape of Mumbai. It also clearly depicts the disparity and ever growing gap between the rich and the poor, and along with that, the rise in crime.
The textile mill strike of 1982-83 had forced the entire industry of Mumbai to shut down, leaving thousands of workers jobless. Slowly, the mill land made way for sprawling, swanky malls, offices and posh residential complexes. But at the same time, the working class was left to fend for itself.
This resulted in an economic divide, which has had an indirect effect on the crime in the central region, which spans from Byculla to Sion and includes Tardeo, Worli, Matunga, Parel, Dadar, Mahim and Wadala. With 9,125 cases last year, it comes second to the west region in the number of crimes registered last year.
On the other side of this region stands Dharavi, one of the largest slum pockets in the world.
Once a hotbed for Mumbai’s underworld with the likes of Vardharajan Mudaliar running almost a parallel government, it epitomises the simmering divide that challenges Mumbai today.
Kalachowki resident and Marathi journalist Pandharinath Sawant, who has seen the cultural, social and topographical transition in the region, believes women in this part of the city, especially in Lalbaug, Kalachowky and Parel, never felt unsafe. “But times have changed now” he said.
“Earlier, these areas had seen an era of ‘dadas’ mainly dominated by Arun Gawli, Amar Naik and other gangs. The gangsters would ensure safety of women in their areas. If anyone faced any trouble, they would go to the darbars the gangsters would hold,” said Sawant.
The numbers are an indication of how unsafe women are now— 124 rape cases in 2014, against the 67 in the previous year. While 76 women were kidnapped, 375 complaints of sexual harassment were registered.
Dr Vibhuti Patel, professor and head of economics department, SNDT Women’s University, said, “The social fabric has collapsed and there is disintegration in human relations. As women go ahead, there is a sense of jealously, and hence chivalry is replaced by hostility.”
YC Pawar, former inspector general of police, who served in the central region and is said to be the one who drove Mudaliar out of Mumbai, said change in demography and increase in population were the key reasons for increase in crime. “Earlier, the central region was dominated by the middle-class. Now, the gap between the rich and poor is growing,” he said.
Rahul Shewale, MP from south-central constituency said, “Citizens are more alert, especially after the Shakti Mill gang-rape case,” he said. Earlier, said Shewale, women were afraid to report crimes, but now they feel empowered and are coming forward to demand justice.