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Mumbai: Cops fail to catch child rapist-murderer, but suppress family's protest

Family of 7-year-old who was found dead on May 24 took a peaceful march protesting police inaction; the cops not only broke it up halfway, but also slapped notices on protesters

When a 7-year-old girl was found raped and murdered just 50 metres from her house last month, the Malwani police had promised her distraught mother that they would catch the culprit within a week. Three weeks later, not only have they failed to catch the man responsible, but they won’t even let the family take out a candlelight march for their little girl, labelling it an “unlawful assembly”.

The victim’s family and neighbours started the candle-light vigil from Malwani Church but were stopped before they could reach the police station
The victim’s family and neighbours started the candle-light vigil from Malwani Church but were stopped before they could reach the police station

Even though the local residents had merely planned a peaceful candlelight vigil, they were slapped with a notice under Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC and warned of consequences. What’s more, when the protestors still decided to continue with the march, they were halted midway before they could reach the police station to express their frustration.

More than 500 Malwani residents joined the victim’s family and the NGO Ashmita Mahila Sangh in the candlelight march to demand justice for the little girl
More than 500 Malwani residents joined the victim’s family and the NGO Ashmita Mahila Sangh in the candlelight march to demand justice for the little girl

mid-day had reported about the plight of the family after the 7-year-old went missing from her grandparents’ home in Patelwadi on the evening of May 23. The family alleged that even at the time of filing a complaint, the Malwani police had not taken it seriously and did not even send cops to search for the child until 10.30 pm. The girl’s body was found at 12.40 am, dumped under a mattress, behind some bushes barely 50 metres from her house.

“If the police had acted promptly that night, my daughter would have been alive today. They are now taking away my right to protest for justice also. Is justice only for affluent people?” said the victim’s mother.

More than 500 local residents joined the family and the NGO on Thursday evening, as they marched from Malwani Church towards the police station, only to be cut short by the police without any warning. “We made an application for the rally a day in advance, giving the police ample time to make the necessary arrangements. However, on the day of the rally, the police issued a notice saying that in case of any untoward incident, we will be held accountable. Despite this, we agreed to carry on with the march. However, the cops stopped us midway without any reason,” said Sneha Pawar of Ashmita Mahila Sangh, which fights for the rights of women.

“It was a 1.5-kilometre march. We had just half a kilometre left before we would have finished outside the police station, when the cops turned up at Malwani gate no 8 and asked us to stop immediately,” said the victim’s mother.

Left with no choice, the rally was stopped at Gate no 8, where the residents paid tribute to the victim and dispersed. “The police do not act against political rallies so promptly. This was only a peace march seeking justice. The stopped us midway, asking us not to go towards the police station, just because we were protesting against the incompetence of the police. We have every right to seek justice,” said the victim’s grandfather.

Neither the family nor the other residents have any confidence in the local police, particularly after this episode. The girl’s mother told mid-day, “It seems like they have forgotten about my daughter’s death. Senior Inspector Milind Khetle had assured us that he would arrest the culprit within a week, but after three weeks, they don’t even know who killed my daughter. We have now started asking people in our locality to give us some clues. We have no trust left in the local police. They should hand this case over to some other agency, like the Crime Branch or the CBI.”

Despite several attempts to contact Mumbai Police, no one was available for comment.

'Unlawful assembly'
This charge was first used by the British Raj as a crucial tool to control all nationalist protests during the freedom struggle. Post-Independence, its use in controlling demonstrations remains controversial. This charge was also used following the protests that came in the wake of the 2012 Delhi gang rape.

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