MiD DAY’s expose about how innocent college girls and housewives, branded as ‘sex traders’, were confined to a rehab centre after a police raid led by ACP Vasant Dhoble on a Khar pub, has only emboldened cops to continue harassing them, their kin allege. On Thursday, half of the detained girls whose families had spoken to this paper about the “unwarranted” police action had to spend another day in the rehabilitation centre in Deonar Navjeevan Mahila Vastigrah, as the police did not take them to court.
Officials of the Social Service Branch who conducted the raid did not produce eight of the 16 girls in the Mazgaon court for the hearing of their case. The staff that escorted the eight girls told this reporter that they could only accommodate eight in police vans, due to shortage of vehicles. Even these eight were sent back to the rehab as they were only done with the verification process. Officers from Khar police station, where the case of Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA), 1956 has been registered against the girls, said there were not enough vehicles to escort all of them.
While Senior Inspector Mangesh Pote of Khar police station said, “I am not aware of this incident,” the commissionerate denied that there is any dearth of automobiles to be requisitioned when required. Deputy Commissioner of Police Sunil Paraskar, official spokesperson from the police commissioner’s office, said, “There is no shortage of vehicles or staff. If the officials had demanded more vehicles, they could have been provided with the means from the motor vehicle section. If the victims’ advocate complains to us, we will order a probe.”
On Wednesday, MiD DAY had reported (‘Height of Madness: College kids, housewives pushed into rehab for visiting pub’, May 9) how some innocent girls, including students, housewives, and even a teacher from Nagpur, were picked up from Madness pub in Khar by the Social Service branch after a tip-off about a flesh trade racket operational there. They were dumped into the rehab, where they had to share rooms with commercial sex workers and bar girls.
“It’s been a mental torture for us. We are being mistreated at the centre and are made to stay with sex workers. I want to get out of this place as soon as possible. But the circumstances indicate that we will have to stay here much longer,” said one of the girls while being escorted to the court. Parents and friends of these girls had gathered outside the court for the hearing. They panicked after they realised that the girls had not been brought to the court. They toiled to figure out what was happening but did not get a definite answer.
“We don’t know where to go and what to do. Had we known the consequences of talking to the press about the incident, we wouldn’t have dared speak up,” said a relative of one of the victims who had earlier spoken to MiD DAY. Mother of another victim added, “This is absolutely unjust. I am a working woman and the sole breadwinner in the family. I have taken a leave for the day and they have not brought my girl. They should have at least informed me. They are not even briefing me about when they are likely to bring my daughter to the court.” Husband of another victim said, “I have a two-year-old daughter alone at my home. She needs her mother. I have to leave her with my neighbours while I work. You tell me how long this will go on. My child needs her mother.”
Is it a grudge?
The advocate of a victim said, “If the police want to delay the procedure and harass the family, they will give several reasons. They have been purposely delaying the medical tests of some of the girls.” A victim’s friend said, “I was outside the pub with my friend and we were about to get in when the raid happened. I managed to get out, but my friend was not that lucky. She works with her father at their medical store. He is out of India. We have not told him or any of her relatives about the raid. We have been telling them that she has gone out on a trip with friends. We expected the girls to be released today.” The mother of a victim said, “I believe my girl. She can never do such things. Whenever she goes for outings, she tells me and takes money from me. She has been falsely implicated in the case.”