A 45-year-old woman was gang raped at gunpoint by the village sarpanch and others because she refused to donate towards a traditional Hindu ritual.

In a numbing incident of violence in rural Maharashtra, a 45-year-old woman was gang raped at gunpoint for allegedly refusing to ‘donate’ towards a traditional Hindu ritual in Sonai village in Ahmednagar district.

The district police have booked case against a former sarpanch and three others for meting out “rough justice” in an instance of extreme intolerance which has sent shockwaves throughout the district.

The woman’s ‘crime’ had been to refuse donation for ‘Harinam Saptah’ — a traditional Hindu ritual involving mass worship of a deity or patron saint during a seven-day period. According to the woman’s daughter, the sarpanch, Laxman Ghule, along with his wife and others from the village, stormed into the victim’s house in the early hours of Friday last week.

“They beat up my father with shovels and sharp weapons, badly damaging his legs. My brother was later administered a horrific beating. They then set upon my mother with a pistol to her head, brutally assaulting her. No one in the mob of 150-odd people who had gathered, ventured to help,” said the shocked daughter.

The thugs further vandalised the house, destroying a motorbike belonging to the victim’s family. Ahmednagar district has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent months with a string of grim incidents of caste violence exemplified in the hideous Pathardi triple murders of a Dalit family. Activists in the district and across the State have castigated police apathy in failing to rein in reactionary violence.

The village of Sonai village itself shot to notoriety in January 2013 after the gory murders of three Dalit youths. The trio was hacked to death by upper caste men and their mutilated body parts scattered in a septic tank in what appeared to be a case of honour killing.

“We have nabbed one of the culprits and registered cases under Section 376 (G) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Arms Act. The hunt is on for the former sarpanch Ghule and ten others. We hope to nab him soon,” said Lakhmi Gautam, the Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police, speaking to The Hindu.

Strongly condemning the incident, Shiv Sena legislator Neelam Gorhe told reporters in Mumbai that she had made sure that the victim was being provided with the requisite medical care and expressed hope in the speedy resolution of the case.