Mumbai gang rape suspects were feared in the slums

August 27, 2013 8:11 am
Activists hold posters during a protest march against the gang-rape of a female photographer in Mumbai on August 25, 2013/AFP
Activists hold posters during a protest march against the gang-rape of a female photographer in Mumbai on August 25, 2013/AFP

, MUMBAI August 27- As Mumbai reels over the gang rape of a young photographer in the heart of the city last week, angry neighbours of the arrested suspects describe a gang of jobless youths known for petty theft and drinking.

The five men are accused of repeatedly raping the 22 year old woman and attacking her male colleague in an abandoned mill compound in central Mumbai, which was known as a haven for drink and drug addicts.

While smart neighbourhoods of luxury apartments, office blocks and malls are close to the scene of the crime, most of the accused gang members hailed from nearby slums where they earned themselves an unfavourable reputation.

“They were local criminals,” said Ajit Pevekar, a 32 year old neighbour and community worker.

The eldest suspect, 27 year old Mohammed Salim Ansari, was the last to be arrested on Sunday in New Delhi after fleeing from his home in eastern Mumbai.

His four alleged accomplices, aged between 18 and 24 according to police, were from nearer the mill in slums surrounding Dhobi Ghat, a site famed as the world’s largest outdoor laundry.

The men have not yet been formally charged and have not commented on the allegations against them.

Unlike the industrious washermen of Dhobi Ghat, three of the suspects known to Pevekar “had no regular work, were playing cards all the time, and all of them drank”, he told AFP, adding that the men would regularly snatch people’s chains or purses.

Some neighbours denied knowledge of the men, while others said they wanted them hanged.

One of the accused, 18 year old Vijay Mohan Jadhav, went for tea near the police station just hours after the alleged offence on Thursday, and next day went to see a Bollywood movie with Ansari, the DNA newspaper reported.

“The people feel they should be handed over to us, and we will beat them,” Pevekar said.

The attack shocked Mumbai, long considered safer for women than the capital New Delhi where the fatal gang-rape of a student in December sparked nationwide protests and led to a tougher anti-rape law.

Last week’s attack had eerie parallels with that case both happened in megacities, and both victims were in their early 20s, one a student and one reportedly a journalism intern. Both were attacked while they were out in public with a man, who in each case was beaten up.

The 23 year old New Delhi victim, who later died from her injuries, was attacked with an iron rod.

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