Nine people, including three women, were arrested by Pune rural police on Wednesday for allegedly roughing up a group of trekkers at Visapur fort near Lonavla on New Year’s eve. The trekkers said they were beaten up and the men in the group forced to strip in an ordeal that began at 9.30pm and ended only when police rescued them around 2.30am on January 1.They claimed that though they reported the matter immediately to the Lonavla rural police, no complaint was registered. An FIR was filed only on Tuesday after they took up the issue with special IGP Vishwas Nangre-Patil (Kolhapur range), who ordered rural police superintendent of police Jay Jadhav to take action.

Police have registered a complaint of rioting and molestation, among other charges, against the attackers. A complaint was also filed against the company which organised the trek for illegally holding a camp at the fort.

The FIR, filed by a fitness trainer, said 26 of them–20 from Mumbai and 6 from Pune-had registered for the camp at the fort on December 31. Speaking to TOI over phone, she said, “We have been trekking to forts during weekends in preparation for a Mt Everest base camp competition in May . We were having soup while one among us was playing the guitar in our tent on the fort when a group of men and women came around 9.30pm and began abusing us in filthy language.“ The group attacked me, my husband, two other men, their wives and even a child in the group,“ the woman said, adding that the attackers accused them of violating “customs“ and “traditions“ at the fort. “They raised slogans in the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.They humiliated and treated us badly . Those like me who are not well-versed in Marathi were forced to speak in the language. I suffered a fracture in my right arm when one of them hit me with a stick,“ she revealed.

The attackers allegedly forced the men in the group to remove their shirts and poured cold drinks on them. “The trek organiser suffered muscle impairment after he was beaten up. The group snatched our cellphones and made calls to our family members saying that we were creating a nuisance and indulging in obscene acts at the fort.One of our family members called up the police, who came to the fort along with local villagers and rescued us at 2.30am,“ she said.

The woman said the police, in stead of taking immediate action against the attackers, first wanted to check whether the trekkers were under the influence of alcohol. “When we reached the police station around 4am, the police used breathalysers on us. Though the results came negative, we were again checked for alcohol consumption. We were at the police station for eight hours. The police all along said it was up to us to give a complaint and did not even suggest that they would register an FIR. We thought the police were friendly with the attackers,“ she said.

When contacted, Jadhav told TOI, “We have registered a comp laint of rioting and molestation and have arrested the suspects.The organiser of the trek had not taken permission to hold any camp. Moreover, as per rules, we cannot grant permisison for such a camp at the fort.“ Jadhav said the complaint against the attackers had been registered under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons or means), 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 504 (criminal intimidation) and 354 (molestation) of the IPC.

Those arrested have been identified as Amol Chavan (21) of Dehu village, Kiran Jadhav (22) of Kuruli, Lomeshkumar (23) of Dahivali in Maval, Arun Tambe (21), Akshay Takawane (21), both from Bavdhan, Nitin Salunke (24) from Udawandi in Baramati, Rasika Urodkar (19) of Yavat in Daund, Kajal Pawar (21) of Tandulwadi in Baramati and Nisha Chowdhary (23) of Bhekrainagar, Hadapsar.

TOI made numerous attempts to contact the trek organiser who is based in Navi Mumbai.However, neither the cellphone nor landline phone mentioned in the organiser’s website was reachable.Incidentally , in a statewide reshuffle of officers of the rank of superintendent of police, Jadhav was transferred from Pune rural to Mumbai. He has been replaced by Raigad SP Mohammed Suvez Haque.

The incident comes close on the heels of an alleged mass molestation of women on December 31 night in Bengaluru.