The gang, which included a forest guard, would either lead women astray after gaining their trust or kidnap them; they would get away with it as villagers wouldn’t report the missing women, suspecting they had run away to join the Naxalites
A forest guard and four of his accomplices have been nabbed for earning women’s trust by pretending to care for their safety and then raping and murdering them in the Naxal-infested jungles of Bhamragad Taluka in Gadchiroli district.
In their confession to the local Bhamragad police, members of the gang told the cops that they had killed more than 15 women after raping them in the forest in the last few months. Police officers say a member of the gang would approach women they would find walking around near the three villages in the area.
He would tell the women that they were taking a dangerous path and direct them to take another one, where the other four members would be waiting to target the woman. Some women were also kidnapped by the gang members from areas near the villages. The gang would then take the women to the forest, rape and murder them and dump their bodies there.
They kept getting away with this, as villagers would not report the missing women to the police, suspecting that they had run away to join Naxalites. The villagers feared that the police would act against the families of the missing women as well, for having Naxal links.
The gang’s activities came to light on Sunday. “A team patrolling the forest found a partly charred dead body of a woman. After conducting inquiries, we realised that the woman was one Sangita, who had come to the area from outside to join the police force.
Her parents, who are not local residents, had filed a missing complaint,” said Senior Police Inspector Ravindra Patil from Bhamragad police station. “No one goes into the forests except forest officers and forest guards and, hence, we inquired about the dead body with on-duty forest guard Manoj Sharmike.
Some locals had also told us that they had seen Sharmike talk to Sangita on two or three occasions. Initially, he did not say anything, but when we got his custody, he revealed that he and four of his friends would kidnap women, rape them and kill them,” said Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police Sandeep Patil.
Officials said that they are going to approach villagers and tell them to report missing women without any fear. “The gang says they have targeted 15 women, but there may be more. We hope the villagers will come forward with complaints,” said an official.