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7 months after gangrape: Shakti Mills remains 'high ground' for druggies

Even as 5 men who gang-raped two women in the Shakti Mills premises last year were found guilty yesterday, violent junkies continue to loom menacingly in the compound, threatening the guards who have nothing more than a stick and a flashlight for protection

Seven months after a 22-year-old photojournalist was brutally raped by four men at the ruins of Shakti Mills, mid-day found that it continues to be haunted by the fringe elements of society, despite the presence of security guards.

Nisar Ahmed, one of the court-appointed guards at the defunct mill, said, “Hardly 10 days ago, we found a couple of druggies inside the mill. When I, along with another guard Akbar Ali Khan, confronted them, they threatened to attack us with the blades that they were holding in their mouths. We were scared for our lives and informed the local (NM Joshi Marg) police.”

The guards, Akbar Ali Khan (left) and Nisar Ahmed, have been given sticks, whistles and flashlights to deal with the vicious drug abusers camping on the premises. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
The guards, Akbar Ali Khan (left) and Nisar Ahmed, have been given sticks, whistles and flashlights to deal with the vicious drug abusers camping on the premises. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

The compound is still a hotbed for drug abusers, Ahmed said, who pose a threat to all those who pass by, including commuters who prefer to take a short cut via the mills to Mahalaxmi railway station. Following the rape, six guards in the employ of Deepak Security Agency were deployed at the spot by court arbitrators.

They work in groups of three, in two shifts, and draw a monthly remuneration of Rs 6,000 each for their treacherous job. To combat crime on the premises, they have been given a whistle, stick and torch to protect the sprawling, overrun seven acres of the mill premises, and banish all the notoriety the spot has come to gain since the gang rape.

Recalling the incident when they were accosted by druggies earlier this month, Ahmed’s colleague, Khan, said, “How on earth are we supposed to fight the addicts, who are doped all the time and can go to any lengths to harm us?

So we informed the NM Joshi Marg police, who reached the spot within 10 minutes and caught the offenders.” While the police nabbed one, a local in the area caught hold of the other.

Khan, incidentally, had been deployed at this spot six months before the rape. He said, “Our agency terminated the contract with the mill owner six months before the incident.

Since then no one has been keeping watch here. During my earlier stint, I was equipped with a police rifle to scare off trespassers. But now we are scared that they will injure us with weapons and what not. They can do anything when they are high on drugs.”

Iron fence being erected
The watchmen have been stopping individuals from entering the mill premises. At the side where the railway tracks are, an iron fence is being erected. “Locals often try to enter from the track side because it’s a much shorter route compared to the road.

We keep checking the mill area at least once an hour to keep tabs on people forcing an entry,” said Khan, adding, “According to the proposed project to reconstruct the mill, two lamp houses would be set up at the entrances before the construction kicks off.”

Cops are now alert
Narrating another incident that set the guards on edge, Ahmed said, “About two months ago, late at night, when we were at the entrance of the mill, we heard a woman screaming and we were scared that a severe crime had taken place. We hurriedly informed the local cops and started searching the premises.”

The guards and the cops scoured the area for more than two hours, and when they couldn’t find anyone, they concluded that the noise must have come from an under-construction site across the railway tracks.

Lauding the cops, the security guards, said that the local police visit the mills multiple times in a day, and show up instantly when contacted for help.

Rs 6 k
The monthly remuneration of each security guard at the Shakti Mills compound

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