Mumbai, Jan 4: Fifteen youths were arrested here late on Thursday night in connection with the alleged molestation of two NRI girls from California on New Year.
Of those arrested, two had surrendered before the Mumbai police.
The police action comes more than 48 hours after the incident in which a rowdy group of New Year revellers allegedly ripped off the clothes of the two girls, who originally belong to Valsad in south Gujarat.
They are said to be students on vacation to India and came to Mumbai for the New Year celebrations. The incident happened near Hotel JW Marriott in the posh Juhu area of northwest Mumbai.
Nightmare: Hitesh (blue stripe shirt) and Vidya Shah (in a dress, names changed) were married a day before the incident. The unknown man in the red T-shirt tried to help them, even as at least 40 men pounced on them. ( Pics courtesy: Hindustan Times)
The police swung into action following strong criticism on Wednesday from deputy chief minister R R Patil over the incident.
According to police sources, the police checked video clips of all the important New Year shows held in and around Juhu area in an attempt to identify the three youths who allegedly molested the girls.
Sources said the videos included a show held by item girl Rakhi Sawant in Hotel Tulip, another musical show in Raspberry Rhinoceros and the footage from the Bipasha Basu bash at Hotel JW Marriott which the two victims attended.
A police official, requesting anonymity, said on late Thursday that some of the youngsters arrested resembled those seen in some of the video clips.
Police are also trying to ascertain how the youths managed to gain entry to shows where the entry passes were prohibitively priced.
On Thursday morning, joint police commissioner (law & order) K L Prasad had even announced a cash reward for anybody providing accurate leads to the culprits.
The case is believed to have been clinched after a woman claiming to be an eyewitness recognized the pictures of some of the youths published in a Mumbai newspaper.
The police are now planning to appeal to the girls' relatives to co-operate and convince the girls to lodge formal complaints with Mumbai police.
Presently, the police are acting on a third party complaint filed by two lensmen of a Mumbai newspaper.
Though it was reported that the victims had left for US, it could not be independently confirmed.
The incident, which has created a furore in the city and elsewhere, has started a raging debate on the safety of women in Mumbai. The latest incident comes barely 10 days after a Finnish woman was raped in neighbouring Navi Mumbai.
Equally shocking ! Mumbai outrage a ‘little thing’ for top cop
Mumbai: It took 38 hours, and intervention from Hindustan Times, for the police to finally register a case of sexual molestation, reported in the January 1 edition of this paper.
An FIR was registered at 4.30 pm at Juhu police station on Tuesday after two HT photographers - who witnessed and photographed two girls being molested by a mob outside JW Marriott - spent four hours with the police.
On Wednesday, the HT’s Mumbai office was flooded with calls and mails as a shocked city reacted to the images published in our editions across the country.
Police Commissioner DN Jadhav’s reaction to the outcry was, however, shocking: he told television reporters that "such little things happen in every society" and that "the media was creating a mountain out of a molehill".
Later, a contrite and defensive Maharashtra home minister RR Patil stepped in to do some damage control. "I don’t approve of the CP’s (Jadhav’s) comments," he told HT. "I have already expressed my displeasure… We will take the statements of your photographers. (By this time, HT had already approached the police to file a complaint.) I assure you that we will locate the culprits."
From the start, the police had been slow to react, miring the case in a swamp of jurisdictional issues and indifference. "We did not take down the name and address of the two women because the case did not fall in our jurisdiction," said Shivaji Tadlapurkar, in-charge of Juhu thana.
That’s not all. An HT reporter brought the incident to the notice of additional commissioner of police (western region) Archana Tyagi at 10 pm on Tuesday night. She had then told HT: "I have no idea about the incident. I have not been informed by officers from my jurisdiction."
The jurisdictional issue was contested till 12 pm on Wednesday when the photographers went to Santacruz police station to file the complaint. Finally, deputy commissioner of police KM Mallikarjuna Prasanna intervened and sorted out the issue.
Joint CP (law and order) KL Prasad said: "Inquiries have revealed that all four of them (the two girls and their male friends) are based in California. They are in their early 20s and had come from Gujarat."
1 arrested, 13 others detained for questioning
Mumbai: One person was arrested and thirteen others were detained for questioning for their alleged role in molestation of two California-based girls on wee hours of January one.
The Juhu police said one person, identified as Ravi Shukla, was arrested after he surrendered himself before the police on the suggestion of his parents and brother. His statement is being recorded.
Another police officer, on condition of anonymity, said another person is likely to be arrested on Thursday night itself.
Apart from these two persons, 13 people were detained by the special team, which was constituted on Wednesday, to nab the culprits for questioning.
Two California-based girls were allegedly molested by a group of 50 to 60 revelers outside the five star hotel in Mumbai North West.
Mumbai turned nightmare for molestation victims
Mumbai, Jan 4: Recounting the tale of horror, one of the victims of the New Year day molestation case here described how the hooligans pinched and groped her, while the woman's husband narrated how he felt when around 50 people were trying to get at his wife and cousin.
In an interview to a city tabloid, she said, "I just want to get over the horror. I want to stop seeing my face on TV. When we came out of the hotel (early) on January 1, I did notsense any trouble. But when we were walking, the crowd just kept getting closer."
"They touched my butt and pinched me. They also began grabbing my cousin sister-in-law. People just watched as my husband tried to protect me," she said.
"I believe Mumbaikars are not willing to stop and help people in trouble."
Her husband told the newspaper, "We are the victims. We were at J W Mariott from 9 PM on December 31 and at around 2 AM we (he, his wife and two cousins) decided to leave (the hotel) and take a rickshaw back to hotel Royal Gardens."
"Just as we stepped out, we saw a group heading towards us. They reached us and immediately began grabbing my wife. Since we were walking against the crowd it was difficult to move ahead. But then it got worse. It seemed like the whole crowd was on my wife and my cousin," he recalled.
"Then somebody pushed all of us on the ground. It seemed like they were 50 people around .... all trying to get at my wife and cousin."
It’s a shame, women are running scared
Mumbai: For all the talk about Mumbai's transformation into an international financial centre, where foreigners, including a large number of women, will come in droves, there is one question which is begging for an answer. How safe is the city for women?
And no one, from the officers of the administration to politicians and even the policemen, has a clue about how to tackle the increasing number of crimes against women. Why should a mother of two kids travelling in a state transport at Thane be raped by a bus conductor? Or, for that matter, why should a woman sarpanch in Palghar raped by fellow villagers?
"Youngsters have gone wild," said Sharit Bhowmik, senior sociologist, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. "There are multiple factors as to why Mumbai is heading in this direction. There is too much moral policing, over-sensationalisation of vulgarity and a complete degeneration of cultural values.”
A systematic breakdown of the informal city structure is another aspect that is worrying the experts. Earlier, vendors and hawkers on the streets played a vigilant role, providing safety to commuters, especially women. "In the name of removing illegal vendors, you have shut down small restaurants and shops all across the city," said sociologist Nandini Sardesai. "An important safety net has suddenly vanished in the last two to three years."
The city has always been known for its humane face. When Mumbaikars woke up to a new year to pictures of two women being molested, it polarised the city. While a section raised the issue of morality, others questioned the role of the police. "Security of the people is primarily the responsibility of the home department," said mayor Shubha Raul, taking the official line of her party, the Shiv Sena.
But cutting across party lines, women activists are unanimous that home minister RR Patil has a lot to answer. "Today, there is no fear of law and order. Whether the Mumbai woman should be well-dressed or have a night life, nobody has the licence to outrage her modesty," said Bharati Lovekar, Nationalist Congress Party member and editor of Marathi magazine Tee. "Women are still seen as sex objects. Unless we change that mindset, things will remain the same."
Even local trains come with a fear factor
Mumbai: Fifty-two-year-old Nikita Mehta has been boarding the first class compartment of the 8.52pm local at Mahim for the past 25 years. But over the last three months she has added a new routine to it. "As soon as I get in, I ask my co-passengers if they are travelling till Churchgate," she said. "I am quite nervous these days. Mumbai is no longer safe."
Mehta readily admits to giving free advice to the 20-something youngsters she meets in the train. "I always tell them to be careful and not travel alone even during daytime. You can't trust anybody these days," she said.
Last week, Heena and Garima, both in their early 40s, were returning from a friend's wedding and missed a train debating whether to travel by first class or second class. "I find the first class ladies compartment deserted and find the second class compartment safer," said Garima.
For decades, local trains have symbolised a culture that has ensured a safety net for women. But the fear psychosis among its regular women commuters is a new phenomenon. Till recently, women commuters, even past midnight, never bothered to give a second glance to find out if they were travelling alone or not.
"Today, when you step in the train what meets your eyes is the vulgar graffiti inside the ladies compartments. It may be the work of a few individuals," says bank employee Nirmala Samant. "But it is an index of perversion creeping in your life-line," she adds.
During peak hours, when everyone jostles with everyone else to catch the 9.23am local, nobody thinks in terms of gender. It is just masses on the move. But today, even the vendor-commuter relationships have been altered beyond recognition. Recently, a 12-year-old vendor threatened to throw out an office-going woman from a running train because she objected to his entry in the first class.
Parents give dos and don’ts to daughters
Mumbai: Nineteen-year-old Pooja Shukla, a student of KC College, Churchgate, has a list of dos and dont’s given by her parents. While she does not need permission to go for a movie in the Inox theatre in Nariman Point, she can't go for a stroll at the Gateway of India or Marine Drive.
"Gateway of India and Marine Drive used to be our favourite a couple of years back," said Pooja. "But after the New Year molestation incident at Gateway of India and the rape of a girl at the Marine Drive police post, my parents are not comfortable with the two places anymore. Even if I tell them we are going in a group, they are very strict and do not allow me."
The two most prominent landmarks of Mumbai, often depicted in tourist brochures, seem to have fewer takers. A coconut vendor along the Marine Drive admitted: "In the name of policing, the men in khaki harass youngsters. Young couples now prefer the restaurants to Marine Drive or Gateway of India."
Eve-teasing seems to have acquired a life of its own. Senior corporate officer KL Sehgal recalled: "In 1990, once when a street Romeo tried to act fresh, the lady turned back and slapped him. The public came to her support. Unfortunately, today, I have to tell my daughter not to get into arguments."
From Daijiworld's archives - Jan 2007: