While four accused in the gangrape of the photojournalist in Mahalaxmi’s Shakti Mills on 22 August were on Thursday remanded to further police custody until 19 September, it appears from the Mumbai Police’s hot chase of another accused in a separate gangrape complaint that investigators hope to close in on the entire group of boys who operated from the deserted mill.
A second gangrape complaint, registered earlier this week at Bhandup police station and transferred to the NM Joshi Marg, is now being investigated by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch simultaneously with the previous case.
In the second case, a 19-year-old victim of the alleged rapists came forward to register a complaint early this week. One 17-year-old boy was arrested almost immediately while a team of Mumbai Police officers has travelled out of the state to nab another accused, who they had actually interrogated in connection with the 22 August case.
The 19-year-old victim, described variously as a call centre worker and a telephone operator, on Thursday reportedly told Zee News that her assailants beat up her male friend and tied him up with a dupatta before proceeding to rape her, on July 31.
The incident may have easily gone unreported. She and her mother had reportedly visited Bhandup police station to withdraw the missing person’s complaint that her mother had lodged when she went missing after the crime. It appears that the girl broke down and told the police about the crime while she was being asked to explain her month-long disappearance from home.
“The Bhandup police insisted that the mother come along with her daughter to record her statement, and it was during the process of recording the statement that the girl broke down and revealed the chilling ordeal she went through on 31 July at Shakti Mill compound, where she was gangraped by three of the accused who have been arrested in the photojournalist’s gangrape case,” says a report in the Hindustan Times.
She reportedly told investigators that she was walking along the railway tracks with a male companion when the accused accosted her and dragged her into the mill, according to The Indian Express.
After the incident, the traumatised victim left the city with her boyfriend and spent the subsequent month in Chhattisgarh with a friend.
When shown photographs of the five accused in the 22 August case, she identified three. A sixth arrest was made on Tuesday, another minor, to be charged for the 31 July incident.
A team is expected to soon arrest Ashfaq Dawood Shaikh, the fifth accused in the 31 July 31 incident, according to this report in Mumbai Mirror.
They have reportedly even found a witness to corroborate some details of crime as reported by the victim.
Six accused are now in custody for the two gangrape incidents – Salim Ansari, Vijay Jadhav, Mohammed Qasim Shaikh alias Qasim Bengali, Siraj Khan and two minors.
Police are also claiming that the gang of at least seven young men may have targetted at least ten women using the same modus operandi over the past few months, according to this report in the Times of India.