An activist engaged with conserving the mangrove cover in Kandivali’s Charkop area was raped by five men on Sunday afternoon after her complaint led to the tearing down of illegal hutments raised on the green patch at Sai Dham Nagar.
The Charkop police have booked 45-year-old Jialal Chouhan, his sons Ram (25) and Laxman (20), Munnalal Prajapati (45), and Ram Milan Yadav (45) for rape and assault under Indian Penal Code sections 326 and 376, among others. The first information report was lodged on Monday.
The mangrove swamp in Kandivali routinely sees trees getting killed, debris dumped indiscriminately, and unauthorised structures constructed to be sold for up to Rs 12 lakh.
The activist is associated with a non-profit called Anyay Nivaran Bhrashtachar Nirmulan Paryavaran Sanrakshan Sanstha, which works against corruption, injustice and environmental destruction.
On Saturday, she lodged a plaint with the forest department about the shanties that she had seen come up in the past few days on land which is supposed to be protected by the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) norms. A day later, she was sexually abused for getting the authorities to enforce the regulation.
Archana Shinde, state president of the NGO the activist was working with, told Mirror: “She was assigned the task of monitoring mangroves. After her complaint on Saturday, the structures were demolished.”
Then, around 3.30 pm on Sunday, the men who had built the shacks went to her 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 said.
She was taken to Ambedkar Hospital nearby, where she received stitches on her face and ribs. Shinde said that the police didn’t inform the hospital about her case.
The victim spoke with Mumbai Mirror over phone. “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,” she said.
Her lawyer, Laxmi Narayan, said that the police official on duty at Charkop police station, Mahadev Tukaram Bhonsale, didn’t register the FIR on time. “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 plaint,” he said, adding that her statement hasn’t been recorded accurately. “I am going to make another complaint,” he said.
Bhonsale said the FIR had been registered on Monday and that the matter was in court.