| Lata Mishra

Is this the protection that women who complain against sexual violence can expect?16-year-old girl, who was assaulted on a busy Kurla road last month, has been admitted to Rajawadi Hospital even as her stalker is out on bail; accused’s mother has also threatened the girl in hospital

The trauma of seeing the man who molested and assaulted her on the streets roaming free was too much for a 16-year-old to bear.The girl, who had suffered a fractured nose in the incident on October 17, has again been hospitalised in Rajawadi Hospital after she collapsed at her residence on October 30. Doctors say it is because of the stress and trauma she has been going through.

The girl suffered a fractured nose, after her neighbor Imran Shaikh, 19, repeatedly hit her in Kurla’s Nehru Nagar for asking him not to harass her or pass lewd comments ­ all of which was captured on CCTV. Although Shaikh was arrested on October 21 after the footage went viral, he was let out on bail the same day. After cops added Section 354 (outraging modesty), Section 326 (causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons) and sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, he was re-arrested, and let out again on bail on Tuesday. The girl and her family are living in constant fear. The accused and his family members live in the same building as the girl, and they have repeatedly threatened the girl’s family to withdraw their complaint. When Mirror spoke to the girl in hospital, she broke down saying, “I am scared to go out alone. How will I complete my studies? I am scared about my future.“

Recalling the incident, she said, “He beat me up as I complained to his mother about the lewd comments he would pass at me every day.“ She added, “I thought if I filed a police complaint, he would be behind bars. Now he is out and I am afraid he will take revenge on me.“

While granting bail to the accused on October 31, Rekha Pandhare, special judge under POCSO Act, mentioned that Imran Shaikh “should not reside and shall not visit the locality where the victim is residing.“ The order also added that “he shall not threaten or pressurise the victim and the witness.“ However, the very same day the judge passed this order, Shaikh’s mother and aunt visited Rajawadi hospital and threatened the girl and her family. The next day, the victim’s elder sister lodged a complaint with the Nehru Nagar police station. After this incident, a female cop was posted for her at the ward in the hospital.

The girl’s father is constantly afraid for his daughter’s wellbeing. “On several occasions, the Shaikh family members have threatened to harm my daughter if we don’t take back the complaint. We are living in constant fear,“ he said. The victim’s 20-yr-old elder sister was also allegedly threatened under knifepoint by Shaikh’s cousin brother Faisal near their home. “They are taking all sorts of measures to threaten us so that we take the complaint back,“ said the girl’s sister.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone VI, Shahaji Umap told Mirror, that the police are protecting the girl and keeping a close eye on the accused. “Two cops have been posted outside her building for the past 15 days. We are monitoring each and every activity of the accused’s family. Even on October 31, when we received a complaint from the girl’s family that the accused’s family members had threatened her in hospital, we immediately appointed a female cop at the hospital. We are fully cooperating with the girl’s family and taking all precautionary measures for her security.“

Dr Vidya Thakur, medical superintendent of Rajawadi Hospital, told Mirror that the girl is traumatised and living under constant fear and anxiety. “She is also undergoing counseling for the trauma she has suffered,“ she added.