July 14th, 2015
Gopal Shetye was a Graduate in Hotel Management and was working as a Chef in a restaurant in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. He had a perfect family, the kind which people dream of – living with parents, with wife and two kids. He dreamt of educating his bright children as much as possible. But he could never have imagined that his world is going to come down crashing soon.
He was picked up by police under a rape charge on 29/7/2009. He was recently on 10th June 2015 acquitted of rape charges by the Mumbai High Court. What happened between these dates will put every Indian under shame and could scare the daylights of every individual, because this can happen to anyone.
A woman from Aurangabad had come to Mumbai in January 2008 and was initially working as a maid servant in Kalyan before turning a beggar. On 18th July 2009, she left Kalyan towards Mumbai and got down at one station hungry and weeping. She was helped by some Samaritans with food and shelter. After spending the next day begging, she slept on the platform at night. A person came to her at 2:30 AM said he loved her. The man was a stranger to the woman and only had given his name as Gopi. Then he forcibly pulled her to an open area and raped her. He took her to a hospital in an autorickshaw and got her treated by doctors. When he saw police had arrived, he ran away.
On 29th July, Lata Suthar the police officer attached with Kurla Railway Police Station was looking for the suspect and arrested Gopal Shetye. The victim was asked to identify the accused Gopal in the police station before the Test Identification Parade was held. This fact the police tried to hide in front of the Magistrates court which the High Court has mentioned as a serious lapse. When the trial began, the victim’s statement was NEVER recorded in court identifying that Gopal was the one who had raped her.
(Image : indiatoday.intoday.in)
The whole case rested upon the statement of the victim given in front of the police. On the instance of Gopal, tests were done on the clothes seized/ recovered but nothing was found that could incriminate him. There was no proof of Gopal being called as ‘Gopi’ anywhere. The Police officer arrested Gopal on the basis of CCTV footage found and his face matching with the description given by the lady who was raped. She submitted in evidence that CCTV footage was the basis of the arrest, but NEVER brought that evidence on record and did not submit it to the court. She was never examined in court. The auto rickshaw driver who carried both the rapist and the raped lady to the hospital or the doctors, medical staff who treated the raped victim and had interacted with the culprit were NEVER called for identification. In spite of these shortcomings, Gopal was convicted for Seven years rigorous imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Gopal was shifted from one jail to another and he contracted Tuberculosis inside the prison. His family suffered, his father passed away, his wife remarried and put her children in an orphanage. His mother left for their native place as she had no one to support her. Gopal had a very emotional reunion with his children in the orphanage but is helpless about taking care of them. Until his tuberculosis is treated, he can’t find a job as a chef. When asked to fight for compensation, he says he can choose only one thing between buying food and medicines for survival or paying lawyers.
While this happens with him, the police who carried a botched investigation will remain unscathed. The Magistrate who wrongly convicted him earlier stands unquestioned.
He is sitting on a hunger strike at Azad Maidan demanding intervention from the Chief Ministers Office for compensation. We as men’s rights activists from Vaastav Foundation, Mumbai are extending help to him in every possible form.
The question that remains for us Indians is, in the zest to convict rapists, are we losing our sensitivity towards men and are hurriedly declaring them as guilty? Who compensates for the lives destroyed for the injustices because of our impatient eagerness to somehow find a culprit?