Five months ago, a 40-year-old woman, was stripped and beaten-up publicly by her neighbours in Katol town, about 70 km from here, on the allegation that the woman had an “illicit relationship with a person in the neighbourhood.” The woman still could not go back to her home.
“I came back to attain my brother-in-law’s funeral but I don’t have the courage to go to that locality,” said the victim. Her brother-in-law died last Thursday. The Hindu is withholding the identity of the victim on her request.
On July 21, 2012, at around 1 p.m., Maya Pappu Tambe (40), Pushpa Ramprasad Masalekar (20), Vikram Pappu Tambe (21) and some residents of Annabhau Sathe Nagar in Katol town, broke open the door of the victim’s house. They doubted that the victim had an illicit relationship with Pappu Tambe, Maya’s husband.
Annabhau Sathe Nagar is less than one km away from the Sub Divisional Police Office (SDPO) of Katol.
“Maya Tambe, her daughter and son Vikram came with a scissor, dragged me out of my house. Both the women stripped me in full public view and then put chilli powder in my private parts. They cut my hair as well. I was crying for help but no one dared to come forward and save me” said the victim, recounting the horror.
The victim’s eight-month pregnant daughter and 17-year-old son were with their mother when the incident took place.
“I could not dare to go ahead and save my mother. Around 400 people watched this tamasha but none came out to support my mother. How could I have fought so many people?” asked the son.
The daughter ran to the SDPO office for help. The SDPO of Katol, Smita Nagane Patil, stopped the assault.
The victim has alleged that the lady officer did not even put a cloth on her. “Instead she told me to go inside my house and wear some clothes.”
Some onlookers shot the incident on a mobile camera. In the video footage, which The Hindu has the access to; it is clearly visible that the SDPO did not bother to put a cloth on victims’ body when she was running nakedly for help.
Denying any such thing, Ms. Patil said, “I had asked her daughter to take her inside her house”. The lady police officer also claims that the video is “doctored.”
“In police station, police inspector Mr. Wagh told his constables to register a case against me as well. He told me to leave Katol,” the victim said.
Inspector Wagh denied the accusation. “It is baseless. I was in a court when this incident took place. This is just an attempt to get me transferred out of here. Otherwise why a CD of an incident which took place six (sic) months ago, would appear now? There have been cases registered against this woman. She used to run a liquor shop. Her husband and elder son are in jail,” he said.
Both the SDPO and the Inspector said that such as “inhuman act” is not at all justified “even with a criminal.”
“I was personally very shocked when I reached the spot and saw what was happening,” said Ms. Patil. .
“I have not met my children from last five months. I am away at my parents place in Varud town. I am scared to go back to my house and the people who did this with me are still at large” says the visibly shaken victim.
Police has booked the accused under section 452, 323, 354, 294, 506 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The accused were granted bail on the very next day by a magistrate court.
Ashish Fule, a High Court lawyer who practices in the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court said, “Usually in such cases, bail is not granted immediately. It is really surprising to see the bail being granted on the very next day”.
“We were prompt in our action. I reached the spot immediately when her daughter came running to me. The case has been charge-sheeted” said Ms. Patil.
Dilip Gayakwad, an activist and an office bearer of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), has been trying to raise this issue.
“The victim belongs to a backward community and the accused also come from the same community, so this case could not be registered under the Atrocity Act. But this does not mean that anyone would come and strip any woman” said Mr. Gayakwad.
“This is a clear case of a cover up by the police. There have been many complaints against Inspector Wagh. They even tried to bury the case. But the accused are visible in that video and they are still at large and the victim has been running away due to the fear of the accused” alleged Mr. Gayakwad.