On 7 September, police in Pune arrested six people for the abduction and gang rape of a minor girl at multiple locations in and around the Pune railway station in Maharashtra. On 6 September, Pune City Police had arrested eight other men involved in the heinous crime.
The six suspects arrested on 7 September are Meerawali Shaikh, Mahboob alias Gaus Shaikh, Asif Pathan, Shahjur alias Siraj Chhaparband, Sameer Shaikh, Firoz alias Shahrukh Shaikh.
Earlier, the police had arrested Akbar Amar Shaikh, Noib Naim Khan, Asif Feroz Pathan, Rafik Murtaja Shaikh, Mashak Abdulmajid Kanyal, Azharuddin Islamuddin Ansari, Prashan Samuel Gaikwad and Rajkumar Ramangina Prasad on 6 September.
Police booked the 14 men under Indian Penal Code Sections 34 (common intention), 363 (kidnapping), 376-da (gangrape of women under 16), 377(unnatural sex). Besides, Sections 4(2), 5(g), 12, 8, 6 of the POCSO Act 2012 was invoked against the suspected.
The police had informed that five of the suspects arrested on 7 September were accomplices of the previous eight suspects. Two of the suspects worked as Class IV employees at the Pune railway station and one of them was an air conditioning repairman.
About six of the suspected men were autorickshaw drivers. One of the suspects was an acquaintance of the victim, who took her to Chandigarh despite knowing that she was a minor. After the crime was reported, the Pune railways administration suspended the two employees from service.
Speaking about the case, a police inspector said, “We have arrested five accomplices of the eight perpetrators arrested earlier. We have arrested a 20-year-old acquaintance of the girl with whom she had travelled to Chandigarh after being released by the other suspected.”
The assaulted minor
The rape victim is a 14-year-old girl and a student of Class 7. In the night of 31 August, she had gone to the Pune railway station at around 10:30 PM to meet a friend. At this point, it remains unclear as to how she reached the station from her house. As her friend could not make it to the station, the victim began looking for an autorickshaw to return home. A driver offered her a ride but instead took the autorickshaw in a different direction.
Along with his aide, the suspects sexually assaulted the minor girl at a secluded spot. Threatening to harm the victim’s family, they took her to different locations in and around the Pune railway station. The autorickshaw driver and his accomplices then took turns to rape her between 31 August and 1 September.
After the girl went missing on 31 August, the victim’s family had approached the Wanwadi police station on the following day and filed a “missing persons” complaint.
The police registered a case of kidnapping on 1 September. One of the initial challenges for the police was to establish the sequence of events and understand how the suspects managed to take the victim to different places without attracting public attention.
According to an investigating officer, the victim was raped under a tree, inside a lodge, in autorickshaws and the office premises of the Indian Railways. He said that the accused would be taken to different locations to establish the timeline of the brutal gang rape.
“We are investigating the possibility of sexual exploitation of the girl by all 13 suspects at some point of time… we are now trying to exactly establish the sequence of events and how the girl was taken to different places. The arrested suspects will be taken to these places to confirm the timeline that we know as of now. The girl was raped in multiple secluded locations, places behind a hedge or inside a lodge and even in two auto-rickshaws and on the premises of an office of the Indian Railways. We are examining these locations to build our case.”
Senior police inspector Deepak Lagad said that one of the suspects saw the victim crying at the station and offered her a ride back home. “However, he took her to a lodge and raped her. Later, he called his friends who took turns to rape the girl at various places before they left her on board the Pune-Jammu Tawi Jhelum express train around 5:30 PM on 2 September,” Lagad said.
According to the cop, the police examined the CCTV footage in and around the Pune railway station and was able to identify the autorickshaw driver who had bought the train ticket for the minor girl and left her on the Pune-Jammu Tawi Jhelum express.
“The police sent wireless messages to all railway police stations along the train route. The Chandigarh railway police found the girl on 4 September and alerted the Pune police. A police team reached Chandigarh by air on 5 September to bring the girl back to Pune. She has narrated her woes to a woman police officer…Based on the girl’s narration and CCTV footage, we took the autorickshaw driver into custody. He admitted to his involvement in the crime and revealed the names of his 12 others,” Lagad added.
Rescue, rehabilitation and aftermath
The girl was taken to the Sassoon General Hospital for immediate medical treatment. Her condition is said to be stable. Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Namrata Patil said, “The survivor and the suspects are not known to each other. For now, the girl is recuperating at a government hospital. Her medical test report is awaited.” According to the DCP, the victim might reveal a few more names in the upcoming days.
In a press statement, the Pune district information officer quoted Ajit Pawar and remarked, “The incident of rape of the minor girl in Pune is infuriating and shameful. The police have taken steps to arrest all perpetrators and the state government will make sure that they receive the maximum possible punishment. Police have been given directions to make sure that such incidents do not happen again. As the suspects in the case include Railway employees, the state will contact the Union Railway Ministry to take necessary steps.”