One of the five suspects arrested in the gang rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai reportedly told the police that the gang has committed similar crimes before and gotten away with them. They had allegedly raped a rag picker and a sex worker inside the same deserted mill where they raped the 22-year-old. They used to record video clips of their victims to intimidate them, he told police.
Another suspect was reportedly a police informant who had exchanged about 80 calls with a police constable from the Mumbai police branch since the end of July.
3. The five men arrested have been identified as Qasim Shaikh (21), Salim Ansari (27), Chand Shaikh (19), Vijay Jadhav (19) and Siraj Khan (24).
4. These are excerpts from the 22-year-old victim’s statement to the police:
I reached my office at around 1pm. I, along with my colleague worked in the office till 5pm and after that we went to Shakti Mills near the Mahalaxmi station to click some photographs. We walked from Mahalaxmi railway station to platform No. 1 and reached the dilapidated wall of the mill.
When we reached the dilapidated wall of the mill, we did not find an appropriate place to enter and stood there thinking if this was the correct way to enter the mill. While we stood there, two persons came out from the compound of that dilapidated wall and told us that there is a road ahead that leads to the mill compound.
When we followed the path, we found that the path was proper and it led inside the mill and we entered the mill. On entering the mill compound, since there was sufficient natural light, my colleague started taking photographs with his Nikon camera, while I used my Apple S-4 mobile phone to click photos.
While clicking the photos, we also noticed vehicles and people on the road outside the mill and decided to leave by the main road after the completion of the photography assignment.
While we were busy clicking photos, at around 6.15pm, the two persons who had shown us the way earlier came there along with another heavily-built person. The heavily-built person then told us that his master had seen them taking photographs and they will now have to go and meet the master. I said, ‘I will speak to the master’, but the heavily- built person refused and said I just need to come with him to the master.
Following this, I tried to call the head of our photography division but the number was busy and I was unable to make any contact . We then followed the trio and reached the decrepit part of the mill. On the way, I received a call from the head of our photography department and I told him that some railway employees have asked us to go along with them. The HOD asked me to leave the place urgently.
In an attempt to scare us, the three men told us that some days ago a murder had taken place inside the mill and accused my colleague that he had committed the murder.
Sometime later, two more persons joined them and all of them together started alleging that my colleague had committed the murder. Following this, I pleaded with the five men to allow us to leave.
At this time, the heavily-built person took out a leather belt from his waist and started beating my colleague and then tied both his hands behind his back with the leather belt. On seeing this, I offered my colleague’s camera and my mobile phone worth Rs30,000 each to the five men and pleaded to let us go.
But the heavily-built man asked both us to remove the belts that we were wearing and give the belts to him. We did as ordered and handed over the belts.
On examination, the heavily-built man saw that the belt tied around my colleague’s hand had loosened, so he asked his associate to get a rope and tightly tie the rope around my colleague’s hand. After this, three people stayed behind with my colleague and two persons, including the heavily- built man took me to a dilapidated room in the mill.
It was around this time that I got a call from my mother. On seeing this the criminals asked me to inform my mother that everything was fine. I did, as I was told.
On reaching the run-down area of the mill, the criminals brandished a broken beer bottle and threatened me not to receive any more calls. They then took my phone and switched it off.
After this, I came near the place where my colleague was being held. Then the five criminals walked along with me and my colleague to the railway tracks. On reaching the tracks, the criminals asked me and my colleague to walk in the direction of Mahalaxmi station, while they started walking in the direction of Lower Parel station.
When the criminals left, I informed my colleague that I was raped by the five men. On reaching the Mahalaxmi station, my colleague contacted our boss (head of photography department) and asked him to come. We hailed a taxi and went to Jaslok hospital.
On the way, I called my mother and asked her to come to the hospital. When I reached the hospital, I narrated the incident to a female doctor and I was then immediately admitted and medical treatment started on me.
5. The incident has sparked shock and outrage in a city perceived to be safe for women. However, Mumbai’s police commissioner has angered many by asking citizens to choose between a “promiscuous culture” or a safe environment.
Although Mumbai’s police officials have been commended for arresting all five suspects within 65 hours of the incident, the city’s top cop is getting flak for his statements to an Indian news channel.
The commissioner, Satyapal Singh, told NDTV, “We have to strike a balance. On the one hand you want to have a promiscuous culture and on the other hand you want a safe and secure environment for the people.”
Answering a viewer’s question on whether the “moral policing” is justified, Singh said, “Should couples be allowed to kiss in public…should they be allowed to indulge in all obscene things?”
“…after the hue and cry, on the one hand we want to increase and support this kind of culture and on the other hand we want to stop cases of sexual assault against women. I think we have to strike a balance as to what kind of culture and society we want. We ourselves are confused.”