Every year since this decade's start has recorded at least 100 new rape cases of minors from the year before; many are murdered after being sexually abused; detection stays poor.
On the night of May 23, a seven-year-old girl went missing from her Malwani residence. The police found her body the next morning, rolled up in a futon, dumped barely 500 metres from her house in the city's suburban north. Her private parts bore several injury marks, preliminary investigation by the police revealed, suggesting she had been sexually abused.
The stricter new laws India framed three years ago — after the Delhi gang-rape case — to tackle the menace of sexual assaults couldn't save the seven-year-old who, like many other children in the city's poor neighbourhoods, was murdered after being raped, cops suspect. If anything, the crime chart has been accumulating new cases with so steady a math it seems sinister. Every year since 2011, the city has added 100 cases of child sexual abuse over the ones logged the year before, Mumbai police's statistics show. This by far makes 2015 the year with the most recorded cases of sexual abuse of minors in the city.
While the police were investigating the rape-murder of the sevenyear-old in the north, a group of people in the city's eastern suburb of Mankhurd poured out of their houses to demand justice for three minors from the area who had been sexually assaulted. Several women took to the streets on a protest march, demanding a thorough probe in the three cases. The agitation was led by the mother of a three-year-old who was kidnapped, raped and murdered, allegedly by a 21-year-old man.
One of the agitators, Kritika, from the Jan Jagruti Sangharsh Samiti — a voluntary group that supported the protest — said residents decided to march to Mankhurd police station from the suburb's railway station after the victim's family began receiving threats from the assailant's acquaintances.
"There are three cases from Mankhurd in which the protesters have demanded immediate action. The police have promised the chargesheet will be filed in the rapemurder case immediately," Kritika told Mirror.
The other two cases, concerning two four-year-old girls missing since 2012 and 2015, haven't seen any resolution. "One of them had gone missing in 2012 and has still not been found. Her mother kept trying to find her for three years but has given up hope over last year. In the other case from nine months ago, another four-year-old was kidnapped and still hasn't been traced," Kritika said.
The steep rise in the number of rapes of minors seen in the city last year was most conspicuously reflected in Wadala. In the first five months of 2015, the jurisdiction of Wadala TT registered 15 rapes of minors, triggering terror among parents and children in the area.
This was the time when a nine-year-old was kidnapped from outside her house in Shanti Nagar while she was playing. She was taken to a wooded plot nearby where she was raped. The case remained unsolved for a couple of months, with the police getting nowhere despite having detained a total of 140 suspects. The accused was finally arrested when he kidnapped another girl and took her to the same spot to rape her. The plot's security guards helped nab him.
The twin incidents have imposed a cloistered childhood on the young ones in the neighbourhood, who for a long time weren't allowed to step out of their houses alone. "During those days, our daughters used to get back home by 4pm itself. This is a very busy locality, yet by 6pm you couldn't have seen any women or children around. The atmosphere was filled with fright," a Shanti Nagar local said.
The police had written to several civic authorities asking them to cut down the thicket of brushwood seen to be exploited by miscreants to perpetrate the crimes, and many shrubs and trees were hacked. They have grown back again. "There is little the police can do to control wild shrubbery," A senior police source from Wadala TT police station said on the condition of anonymity. "We write to the BMC on a regular basis to help us chop the trees, but there is very little cooperation from their end."
This year started with another hair-raising discovery. In January, the police recovered the skeleton of a boy from a hollow under the bridge of the eastern freeway at it slopes to its Wadala end. A cable boy had entered the cavity under the bridge to lay some wires when the stench of the boy's decomposing remains assaulted him. Police investigations led to the arrest of four drug addicts who confessed they had kidnapped the boy, raped him and killed him.
"That incident has stayed with us. Things had started to seem to change for better, but that case shocked all of us," the resident added. Like the five years before it, 2016 seems to be progressing in a manner that suggests it will stick to the pattern, of adding 100 more cases from the year before, for the months from January to April have logged an average rise of 10 cases from the corresponding months last year (see statistics).
RAPE-MURDERS OF CHILDREN
KURLA'S NEHRU NAGAR: A HOTBED OF CRIME
February 9, 2010: Body of a five-yearold girl found in a gunny bag on the staircase of a building in Nehru Nagar, Kurla (East). Post-mortem report revealed she had been raped and murdered.
March 7, 2010: Body of a nine-yearold girl found dumped on the terrace of the police quarters opposite Nehru Nagar police station. In this case too, the victim had been raped and killed.
Forensic investigations threw up a match between the DNA of the accused and the swabs collected from the victims in both cases, indicating the same suspect. Police then started collecting DNA samples of all the suspects they had rounded up — collecting more than 1,500 samples. The suspects included the son of the senior inspector posted at Nehru Nagar police station when the crimes took place. The policeman resides in the same quarters from where the nineyear-old's body was recovered.
Top: Nusrat's sister Sania with her photo after she went missing in 2010; Javed Sheikh (inset); Above: Cops produce him in court after arresting him on July
June 6, 2010: Eight-year-old Nusrat Shaikh, a resident of Ali Shramik Nagar in Kurla (East), disappeared after stepping out of her house to play. Her body was found in a house near Balwadi in Vatsalatai Nagar slum on June 19. Police cracked the case, with the arrest of Javed Shaikh, who worked for a local cable service provider. He was picked up from Pathanwadi in July for raping and murdering Shaikh.
November 13, 2011: A three-yearold's body found near Nariman Point fire brigade depot, lying near a bloodstained mattress. Cops said her head was bludgeoned with a rock, her body was completely decomposed. Cops could not establish if she had been sexually assaulted, but there were bloodstains on her underclothes.
January 18, 2012: Body of another three-year-old girl found. She was first hit on the head, after which she died. The killer proceeded to smash her body with a heavy object, giving her 50 fractures. The assaulter also bit a chunk of flesh from her right arm. The body was found in the same spot where the three-year-old was found in November. Cops found stains on her underclothes.
April 20, 2012: Body of a 3-year-old missing for many days found in Cuffe Parade with injury mark on forehead. In all the three cases, police picked up over 15,000 people for interrogation and collected over 600 DNA samples, but found no leads.
After the crimes, locals got restive, said Balaji Rathod, a social worker. They feel unsafe even today, four years after the gruesome murders. At one time, they thrashed two visitors suspecting they were kidnappers. "We live in constant fear. If a child is late by 10 minutes after deadline, parents start to panic," Rathod said.
Residents of Ambedkar Nagar in Colaba said cops had mounted surveillance cameras and beefed up security, but the cameras disappeared a year ago and the streets assumed an air of faux-normalcy. "We don't know what happened to the CCTV cameras; whether they were uninstalled or robbed," Rathod said.
DCP Manoj Kumar Sharma (zone I), said moisture damaged the cameras, which were funded by private persons. "The cameras got ruined over the years because of humidity. I am working with the senior inspector of Colaba and trying to get new sponsors to reinstal them," Sharma said.
CITY ADDS 100 CASES OF MINORS’ RAPES EACH YEAR May 31, 2016 By Lievanta Millar With inputs from Divyesh Singh