Woman assaulted by cops at Lalbaugcha Raja speaks out
After video of cops assaulting her at Lalbaugcha Raja went viral, 20-year-old tells mid-day how police dragged her to the police station, where she was humiliated further and beaten with lathis
"What you see in the video does not even show half of what happened to me and my parents," Nandini Goswami told mid-day, recalling her horrific experience at Lalbaugcha Raja on Friday, when she was assaulted by three women constables after she tried to enter the pandal through the VIP gate.
A video of the incident quickly went viral on social media, after which Commissioner of Police Ahmad Javed ordered an inquiry into it. What the video does not capture, however, is how her parents also got caught in the fray and how the pandal volunteers jeered at them, or how the police took her to the police station, where they beat her with a lathi and held her till the wee hours of the next morning, Nandini said.
"I have been visiting Lalbaugcha Raja since I was five years old, and that’s why I went there for darshan on Friday evening. But what happened then was extremely traumatic," she said. The 29-second video, shot by an onlooker standing on Lalbaug flyover, shows three female constables hitting the 20-year-old, until her father arrives to shield her from the blows.
"I won't forget it all my life. We went to the VIP gate and requested the volunteers to let us in, but they refused. However, we saw other people going in from there. Someone said that the volunteers would let us in if we offered them money. When we saw more people entering from the VIP gate, we just decided to follow them in," Nandini recounted.
That is when things got ugly. Cops claimed they only hit Nandini because she had hurled abuses at the women constables and had threatened them, saying she had a black belt in karate. However, Nandini countered, "While we were trying to get inside, one of the volunteers stopped my mom and started abusing us. A few more male and female volunteers came and started abusing and pushing my mom badly, due to which her clothes got torn. Anybody in the world would get angry if such things happen to their parents."
Stills from the 29-second video of cops assaulting the girl at Lalbaugcha Raja. She said this does not cover even half of what happened to her and her parents that night
"That is when I got heated up, and asked if this is the way to behave with women. In no time, several female and male cops started thrashing me brutally. They did not stop there; the volunteers also jeered at us with abusive language and told the cops that they were doing the right thing by hitting us," she said, adding, "I think the whole Lalbaug pandal should be shut down, since their behaviour towards devotees is pathetic."
"There was much more that happened than the assault seen in the footage. The cops took me to the police station and brutally assaulted me with lathis; I still have the marks on my back. The way they dragged me by my hair was humiliating and my head still hurts," Nandini alleged.
Although the incident had taken place around 11 pm on Friday night, she was only allowed to leave the police station around 3 am, after they had slapped a Rs 1,200 fine on her and charged her with creating nuisance in a public place under the Bombay Police Act.
"I was extremely scared that night, as we were taken to the police station. They slapped us with a fine of Rs 1,200 and then let us leave. I am still terrified; if I come forward and complain, my life could be in danger," said the Mira Road resident, who has not been able to go to work since then, as she is still in pain.
"When I went for a check-up, there were several injuries — which were very much visible — on my neck, back, thighs and hands." Her employer, actor and vocalist Saurav Sharma said, "I have been talking to senior cops in the department to seek justice for Nandini. What has happened to her is not correct and shouldn't happen with anyone else."
CP orders inquiry
After the 29-second video went viral on social media, Commissioner of Police Ahmad Javed ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV) Ashok Dudhe to submit a report within 48 hours.
“We have asked for an inquiry into the matter and the report will be submitted in 48 hours,” said Deven Bharti, joint commissioner of police (law and order).
“The girl was beaten up because she threatened the cops saying she was a black belt champion. She had also abused the female cops. We can only see half the incident in the video,” claimed a police inspector from Kalachowki police station.
Second incident in the same day
A scribe for a Marathi daily alleged that she was also manhandled at Lalbaugcha Raja the same day, over the same issue — VIP entry. After she was denied entry through the gate, she shot a video of others being let in from there.
“They beat me up and also deleted my video. They charged me under the Bombay Police Act and fined me Rs 1,200. They took both Nandini and me to the Kalachowki police station and held us there till 3 am. Is this the way the police behave with people?” said Poonam Apraj.
— Vinay Dalvi