Mumbai, Aug. 24: The young photojournalist brutalised by five men in an abandoned mill has voiced concern that her tormentors who filmed Thursday’s assault on their mobile phone cameras might circulate the clips.
Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, a former Mumbai mayor and member of the national women’s commission, said the 22-year-old had expressed her fear when she met her in hospital on Friday.
“She has tremendous fighting spirit. She said rape is not the end of the world. She said she wanted to get back to work…. But she was worried that the accused had shot photographs and video clips of the act and they could make them public. I assured her that I would speak to the police about this,” Samant Prabhavalkar, the only outsider allowed to visit the victim apart from Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and home minister R.R. Patil, told The Telegraph this evening.
“She also said the accused could be convicted for seven years and could harm her once out of jail. I assured her the new law ensures life imprisonment.”
The former mayor met Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh today along with women’s commission member Vinod Sharma. “I informed him about the girl’s apprehensions about the clips, and he assured me that he would direct the cyber crime cell to keep a check,” she said. “I also warned the commissioner that the accused are using ‘juvenile’ status as a defence to escape punishment.”
The grandmother of Chand Babu Sattar Shaikh alias Mohammed Abdul, one of the three suspects picked up so far, today claimed he was a minor. “He cannot do such a crime. He is only 16. I can show his birth certificate issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation which proves he was born on February 26, 1997,” said Chand’s grandmother Sarnabai, who lives in a shanty in Dhobi Ghat barely half a kilometre from the crime spot, the compound of the abandoned Shakti Mills.
Police sources said Sarnabai’s claim was a ruse to help her grandson, the first to be arrested, get away with lesser punishment. Juvenile offenders can be sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reformatory home.
Sarnabai said Chand was with her till 5pm on Thursday. “He was called by someone to the spot, saw what had happened and ran away. He did not rape the girl.” The victim, an intern with a magazine, was raped sometime after 5.30pm, when she reached Shakti Mills on a photo-shoot assignment.
A police officer said the male colleague who was with her had identified the first two arrested suspects and both had confessed to the crime.
Sarnabai’s claims came on a day additional commissioner (central region) Praveen Salunkhe confirmed that a third suspect, identified by police sources as Siraj Rehman, had been arrested.
“We arrested one person yesterday and a second person this morning. They were produced in court and remanded in police custody. We arrested the third person this evening and he will be produced before court tomorrow,” Salunkhe said.
Earlier in the day, Mumbai police arrested Vijay Jadhav from a video parlour in an area near the mill compound.
Chand and Jadhav have both been booked under sections 376 (rape), 341, 342 (wrongful confinement) and 506 (2) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Police commissioner Singh has not officially disclosed the names of the five suspects but police sources had leaked the names as Mohammed Abdul, Vijay Jadhav, Qasim Bangali, Saleem and Ashfaque.
Investigators said Chand had misled the police about the fifth accused saying his name was Ashfaque alias Prince. Today, he confessed there was no Ashfaque and the name was Siraj Rehman, a source said.