“My fight has not come to an end yet, and I will keep fighting till justice is delivered.” These were the courageous words of a Dutch woman who recently returned to Mumbai to testify against the two men who allegedly attempted to rape her over three years ago in the Aarey Colony forest.
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In January 2012, the woman had told mid-day that she couldn’t wait to get out of the city that had caused her so much trauma
Foreign rape or molestation survivors seldom return to India to fight for justice once they file the complaints and go back to their native countries, and perhaps this Dutch survivor would have also chosen to stay away and give her statements through video conferencing, had it not been for the investigating officer who kept her morale high over the years and finally persuaded her to come fight for her rights.
According to the police, this is in fact, the first time a foreigner has returned to Mumbai to fight a sexual assault case. In the past, similar cases have languished or were dismissed after the survivors failed to show up.
In April 2009, an American exchange student alleged that she was gangraped by other students. The accused were acquitted a year later due to inconsistencies in the survivor’s statements, but sources said her case would have been stronger if she had appeared in person during trial.
In November 2012, a Spanish woman was allegedly raped in Bandra. She filed a complaint and returned home as well, and chose to give statements through video recordings. So the police expected the Dutch survivor to do the same after she was attacked in Aarey in 2011.
It happened in the wee hours of December 26, 2011. At that time, the survivor was 18 years old and was in Mumbai for a student exchange programme. That night, she had gone to visit her friend in Vasai and was on her way back to her residence in Mulund. Her friend dropped her at the Dahisar check naka, where she boarded an auto rickshaw to go home.
The auto driver, Anil Yadav, took her through Aarey Colony and, unbeknownst to her, called a friend and asked him to join them. The friend, Rajpati Baburam Nishat, boarded the auto and the duo then took the teenager to the woods, where they attempted to rape her. Her screams scared them off, however, they ran away after grabbing her phone and purse.
The survivor approached the Vanrai police station and was sent for a medical examination, after which the case was registered for robbery and attempt to rape. The accused were arrested in January 2012 and have been behind bars since then.
|Dhanaji Nalawade, investigating officer|
Over the years, the investigating officer, Dhanaji Nalawade (who was a PI at Vanrai police station at the time and is now Senior Police Inspector at DN Nagar police station) kept in touch with the survivor through the Netherlands embassy, and would update her about the case and how it was progressing.
“We were in touch through email and the girl had been taking note of all the details of the arrest and the case which is on trial in the fast track court,” Nalawade told mid-day. In January, Nalawade informed the Dutch survivor the court would need her statement and she would have to be present through video conferencing.
While Nalawade had made attempts to persuade her to appear in person, even he was surprised when she agreed to come to Mumbai and appear in court. “It is difficult for a victim to return to the place where she was subjected to an attempt to rape, but she was brave enough to do it,” added Nalawade.
Nalawade wrote to the Netherlands embassy and requested them to arrange for her travel, after which the embassy paid for the costs of travel and three days’ stay in Mumbai. The woman gave her statement in the in-camera trial in the fast track court on January 12 and returned to her country on January 15.
“I was not only the victim who faced such a horrifying incident; it was an attack on every woman, who people think are weak and can’t fight back,” she said, adding that she hoped to see her assaulters punished for their actions.
Brave as her act was, it has considerably strengthened her case, said Nalawade. “Even I had no idea it would impact the case so much. Her appearance in court and her account of the incident has helped make it a strong case,” he added.
Only two witnesses remain to be deposed in court now. One was an eyewitness to the rape attempt, while the second is a postman. The postman found the survivor’s documents, including her passport, dumped in a postbox in Aarey Colony.
Based on his account and the time at which he found the documents, the police hope to prove that it was the accused duo that dumped the documents there, since the records from the woman’s phone which was still with them proves that they were at the same spot a while ago.