The minor victim has alleged that she was raped by over 100 persons, including cops.The girl escaped to Delhi last month and lodged a complaint there. On Saturday, the case was transferred to Pune police and accordingly, an FIR has been registered against 113 persons.
Vimantal police station arrested a 26-year-old woman in this regard on Sunday.
Incidentally, this case is connected to the recent revelation of the attempt to rape and torture a model from Delhi, who had escaped with the minor girl to the capital last month. In this case, four more accused have already been nabbed by officials of Chandan Nagar police station.
The arrested accused has been identified as Swikriti Kharel (26), a native of Nepal, who lives in Viman Nagar. Those arrested by Chandan Nagar cops are Rohit Bhandari (35), Harish Shaha (25), Tapendra Sahi (23), and Ramesh Thakula (25), all Nepal natives, who live in Kalyani Nagar.
The other accused named in the complaint include Shakti, Anna, Bharat, and others, all part of the sex racket in the city. Cops said the minor girl hails from the Nepal-India border region in Siliguri. Her father had left her mother, who later became mentally unstable. Her grandmother ran a tea stall, where Bhandari used to come to buy cigarettes and saw the victim. He promised to get her a job at a beauty parlour in Pune and brought her here in January 2014. The first few days went smoothly, but later, she was forced into prostitution. The accused raped her, also drugging her and making her engage in sex with multiple persons.She was kept at locations like Sanjay Park, Viman Nagar, Kharadi, etc. As per the survivor's complaint, Swikriti took her to Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bhopal for this racket, too.
The incident had come to light in March when the 24-year-old was admitted in a Delhi hospital for burns treatment and hospital authorities informed cops. Delhi police registered a zero FIR and sent the case to Pune, where it was taken up by the Chandan Nagar police.
Assistant police inspector P B Kolte from Viman Nagar police chowky is investigating the case.
In a scene captured on a cellphone video, one of the men wags his finger angrily at her. He rages: This girl must be punished.
A villager ties her waist with rope, holding the other end, and lifts a tree branch into the air. She bows her head. The first lash comes, then another, then another. Ten in all. She lets out a wail.
Eventually the crowd starts murmuring, "Enough, enough," although nobody moves to stop the beating. Finally, the man throws down his stick. It's over.
She is 13 years old. Or maybe 15. Her family doesn't know for sure. She has never set foot in a school and has spent most of her life doing chores at home, occasionally begging for food and performing in her father's acrobatic show, for which she is given 20 rupees, about 30 cents.
Her crime? Being too scared to tell anyone her father raped her.
In early March, a farmer (the girl's father) and local labor activist named Sachin Tukaram Bhise was headed to a nearby village to find day laborers for his wheat and sugar cane farm when he heard a village council was to be called by members of the local Gopal community, near Mauje Jawalwadi. Shivram Chavan's sons did not know the whole story but feared the worst and had ostracized their father; he was ready to confess.
The Gopals are a largely illiterate, impoverished group who were once nomads making their living as cow herders and itinerant street performers. Many have since settled down to menial jobs in the fertile farming region in the shadow of the basalt crags of the Sahyadri mountain range.
As Bhise watched, villagers from around the area gathered in the main square of the village amid tin-roofed sheds. The teenager and her father were brought to kneel before the member council.
Chavan bowed his head and admitted what he had done, Bhise recalled, and said he was ready for whatever punishment the council would give him. Then the elders turned to the teenager and began to berate her.
"They said it was the girl's fault. That the father was drunk and he was not in his senses," Bhise said. "I got angered at the whole thing. How could a girl invite such an act? The 'panch' said, 'You're useless,' 'You're the culprit.' She was crying."
Bhise took out his cellphone camera and surreptitiously began to film as the council issued its verdict - a fine of about $67 and a whipping of 15 "sticks" for the father, five "sticks" for the girl. They would be whipped until each of the thin tree branches broke.
Bhise took his evidence to the police, who later arrested all seven members of the council, charging them with conspiracy, extortion and assault. The father was held on child abuse charges.
The tyranny of village councils
India is a country of 1.2 billion people, with a growing economy, a young population and an energetic prime minister eager to sell the country on the world stage. A generation of women are taking stronger roles in the workforce, in colleges and online who aren't afraid to push against outdated misogyny - be it acid attacks, rape and sexual harassment, or the portrayal of women in movies and advertisements.
Yet patriarchal prejudices ingrained for centuries have been tough to shake loose despite a growing clamor for change - and continue to affect life from the village water pump to the judicial system and beyond.
Male-dominated village councils have existed in India for centuries to resolve disputes between neighbors and serve as enforcers of social mores in the country's stratified caste system. Although elected village bodies were established by the Indian government in 1992, unelected clan councils continue to operate with impunity throughout rural India, issuing their own edicts in the name of preserving harmony.
Five years after the Supreme Court said such councils should be illegal, the central government and some states are only beginning to pass or contemplate laws that would limit their behavior.
These councils often prevent or break up marriages and love affairs between couples from different castes, and they have instigated honor killings. Women typically receive the harshest punishments.
They also intervene in cases of sexual assault - mediating resolutions between two families, attempting to smooth over devastating wounds with a few hundred rupees and even in some cases forcing a victim to marry her rapist. Amid international outrage about the 2012 fatal gang rape of a Delhi student, laws were passed to make it easier for rape victims to file charges. But the road to the police station is still a long one.
"In rape cases, their role is underground and not officially or publicly acknowledged," said Jagmati Sangwan of the All India Democratic Women's Association, a longtime critic. "They will ask the family of the victim to go for a compromise, go for mediation, and that suppresses the interests of the victim."