Tribal girls go to file rape case against Gadchiroli cops, get abducted by 'cops'
It could have been a scene out of a Bollywood thriller. A group of men claiming to be police stormed into the office of a lawyer in Nagpur, and forcibly took away at least four people who were there to discuss a case of rape of two tribal girls in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra.
The drama unfolded in the office of Advocate Nihal Singh Rathod on Friday evening, 27 January. According to the lawyer, the arrested men and women had come to his office in connection with a case of rape of two girls from Gutta village in Gadchiroli, allegedly by policemen.
The girls had gone missing after their alleged rape on 20 January, following which their brother approached Rathod on 25 January to file a writ petition before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. The petition was filed the same day but it could not be heard.
"After waiting for hearing the whole day, he went back. When he reached home, the victims too returned. He brought them to me on 27 January. The former sarpanch of Gutta, Shila Gota, and her husband Sainu Gota, former director of Tribal Development Corporation of Maharashtra, accompanied them to my office along with two interpreters, Jayashree Velda and Sushila Narote, since the victims only speak the Madia language," Advocate Rathod said.
The victims were narrating their ordeal to the lawyer and his associates while Sainu Gota was waiting outside. "A team of Gadchiroli police came and picked up Sainu Gota," Rathod said. "His wife shouted for help, but before we could do anything, the police vehicle sped away."
Moments later, a group of men in plainclothes stormed into Rathod's office and tried to take away the two girls and Shila Gota. "I tried to stop them. Asked for proof of their identity. But they didn't listen. They wanted to arrest the two rape victims and Shila. Since it was 7.30 pm, I pointed out that they can not arrest women after sundown. It worked, and they left my office. But after sometime, as we were preparing the writ petition to be filed before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, the same group of people returned and picked up the victims and Shila Gota from my office," Rathod said.
The writ petition was filed Saturday morning and came up for hearing on an urgent basis given the gravity of the matter. The court ordered the police to produce the victims and Shila Gota on Sunday. "They were produced in the court Sunday morning. They were sent to a correction home on the condition that the police will not contact them until the next hearing, which is before the regular bench on Monday," Rathod said.
Rathod alleged that the Gadchiroli police were "harassing innocent tribal people just because they oppose the Surjagad mining project". "All those arrested are at the forefront of the fight against the Surjagad mining project. These people are spearheading the movement. This is the reason the Gadchiroli police are harassing them, physically and mentally," Rathod claimed.
The lawyer said after the two tribal girls were raped, allegedly by commandos of the Gadchiroli police, local tribal activists came out in their support and started a campaign to get them justice. "However, the Gadchiroli police booked them and impounded their vehicle on 24 January, when Sainu Gota, along with a local lawyer, Jagdish Meshram, went to meet the victims at Gadchiroli District Hospital. They were booked on the charges of creating ruckus and obstructing police work. Both were booked under sections of the Bombay Police Act," Rathod said.
The police also alleged that Meshram was drunk when he arrived at the hospital.