June 30th, 2017
An activist involved with the conservation of the mangrove cover in Kandivali’s Charkop area, North Mumbai has been raped by five men on 25 June, after her complaint led to the demolition of illegal hutments raised on the green patch at Sai Dham Nagar, as reported by the Mumbai Mirror.
The activist is associated with a non-profit called Anyay Nivaran Bhrashtachar Nirmulan Paryavaran Sanrakshan Sanstha, whose primary concerns are that of resisting injustice, corruption and environmental destruction.
According to the Charkop police reports, 45-year-old Jialal Chouhan, his sons Ram and Laxman, aged 20 and 25 years respectively, Munnalal Prajapati (45), and Ram Milan Yadav (45) were booked for rape and assault under Indian Penal Code sections 326 and 376, among others. The first information report (FIR) was lodged on Monday.
Indiscriminate felling of trees and waste dumping is a common sight in the mangrove swamp in Kandivali. Unauthorised structures have been built on the marsh which is being sold for more than Rs 12 lakh.
On Saturday, 24 June, the activist had lodged a complaint with the forest department about the shanties she had noticed to have mushroomed on the plot which should be protected by the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) norms. A day later, she was sexually abused for getting the authorities to enforce the regulation.
Speaking to Mumbai Mirror, Archana Shinde, state president of the NGO said,“She was assigned the task of monitoring mangroves. After her complaint on Saturday, the structures were demolished.”
Around 3.30 pm on Sunday, the builders went to the activist’s home and began filming her from the window to terrorise her. Shinde said, “They dragged her outside and hit her with an iron rod. She was thrust to the floor and raped. Her mother heard the commotion, arrived at the spot and called the police. It must have been 4 pm then.”
She was admitted to the nearby Ambedkar Hospital where she received treatment for bruises on face and ribs. Shinde claims that the police has not informed the hospital about the activist’s case.
“I didn’t know being a complainant would create this nightmare. They have destroyed my spirit. I am unable to go to the bathroom. My whole face is swollen. I am in terrible pain. Even the police are hand-in-glove with the rapists,” said the survivor to Mumbai Mirror.
Laxmi Narayan, the activist’s lawyer has claimed that the on-duty police official in Charkop, Mahadev Tukaram Bhonsle, was not ready to register the FIR at the first instance. Narayan said, “Instead, he went to her house and arrested a family member after taking a cross-complaint from the accused. He pressured the victim to withdraw the complaint.” The lawyer claimed that the statement of the activist has not been recorded correctly and that he would file another complaint.
The officer on-duty, Bhonsle, however, argues that an FIR had been registered on Monday and the matter was in court.
The Logical Indian community castigates the entire culture where the life of a social activist comes under threat every time she raises her voice against any wrongdoing. The country is not unaware of the plight of a whistleblower who questions the ones in power and faces unprecedented troubles. We, therefore, urge the concerned authorities to take immediate action in this case and ensure that the probe remains unprejudiced.