24 arrested for gang rape of Thane girl, SIT to probe case: Police
At least 32 people have been booked on charges of gang-raping a 15-year-old girl several times over a period of nine months in Maharashtra’s Thane district, police said on Thursday.
Of the total, 24 have been arrested while two minors have been detained, and a special investigation team (SIT) has been formed to probe the case, they added.
In her complaint on Wednesday, Manpada police said, the survivor alleged that it all started in January when a man she was in a relationship with, threatened to leak their private videos and forced her to have physical relations with some of his friends and acquaintances.
All the accused raped the girl, a resident of Dombivli (East), at various locations such as Dombivli, Murbad and Badlapur in Thane district and Rabale in Navi Mumbai on multiple occasions, officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
The matter, however, came to light earlier this month when the survivor approached a relative over the prolonged sexual abuse.
“The girl’s aunt approached a local social worker and decided to nab the accused. On Wednesday, six of the accused called the victim to a lodge in Murbad. While her aunt and the social worker tried to follow her, the auto they were travelling in broke down midway. Since the girl had shared her live location, her aunt immediately informed us,” an officer, who is part of the probe, said on condition of anonymity.
A police team immediately rushed to the lodge and managed to arrest two persons as the other four had already left. Based on their and the girl’s statement, police gradually began apprehending the remaining accused from Wednesday night onwards, the official said.
“Based on the victim’s statement, a FIR was registered on Wednesday evening. We booked all the accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code as well as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act,” Sachin Gunjal, deputy commissioner, zone III, Thane police, said.
Additional commissioner of police (East region) Datta Karale added that a SIT has been formed to investigate the matter. “Assistant commissioner of police (administration) Sonali Dhole will head the SIT,” he said.
While the minors were sent to a remand home, the arrested people -- all in their early twenties -- were remanded in police custody till September 29. The girl, meanwhile, was sent to a government hospital in Kalwa for medical examination.
“A few more names came up during the investigation and the total number of accused has now gone up to 32,” senior inspector Dadahari Choure at Manpada police station said.
The developments came weeks after a 34-year-old woman was brutally raped and murdered by a 45-year-old man in Mumbai’s Sakinaka area, prompting Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to urge chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to hold a special session of the assembly to discuss women safety in the state. The accused was later arrested in the case.
In a statement, Thane guardian minister Eknath Shinde said: “The incident of gangrape on a minor girl in Dombivli is extremely unfortunate, reprehensible and a blot on humanity. I have spoken to the Thane Police commissioner and issued instructions to arrest whoever is involved in the offence. In order to ensure that there are no repeats of such a grave crime, not only will the accused be punished in the strictest way possible, but instructions have also been given to handle every single complaint of crimes against women speedily and strictly.”
Condemning the alleged gang-rape of the teen, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis demanded that the Maharashtra government make special efforts to prevent such crimes. “An atmosphere of fear is prevailing in the state. The increase in the number of such incidents is worrisome,” the former chief minister told reporters in Nagpur.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena general secretary Shalini Thackeray tweeted: “The gang-rape in Dombivli sends a shiver down the spine. What more needs to happen for the chief minister to realise that Maharashtra is no different than Delhi or Uttar Pradesh?”
Meanwhile, police dismissed reports that some of the accused had political connections. “None of the accused come from politically-connected families and there was no political pressure,” Gunjal said.