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Shakti Mills gang-rape: How a few good men helped crack the case

Four citizens, each of whom contributed to the delivery of justice in the gruesome Shakti Mills gang-rape cases, recall their experiences and the challenges they faced

Manohar Dhanavade
Manohar Dhanavade
Role: Investigation officer in photojournalist’s rape in Shakti Mills
Designation: Police Inspector of Crime Branch III
“Gathering evidence was a big challenge in the Shakti Mills rape case,” recalled Police Inspector Manohar Dhanavade. On August 25, three days after the crime, the case was transferred to Crime Branch unit III, and Dhanavade, then a respected sub-inspector from the 1992 batch, was appointed to conduct a speedy and sound investigation of the case.

Also read: Shakti Mills: One year on, more women coming forward to register rape cases

“I knew it was a very important case and I had to collect a lot of scientific as well as other kinds of evidence, and find witnesses, to make the case strong. From day one, I made the case my priority, so that it would be watertight in court,” recalled Dhanavade. The case came to him at a time when public rage over the New Delhi gang-rape case was still simmering, and the pressure was palpable.

“We filed a 600 page-long chargesheet just 27 days after the crime, and I am satisfied. Thanks to guidance from senior officers like Himanshu Roy and Sadanand Date, we managed to get death sentences for three of the accused Qasim Bengali, Vijay Jadhav and Mohammad Salim Ansari,” said Dhanavade.

Mohammed Siddiq Shaikh
Mohammed Siddiq Shaikh

Role: Sketch artist
“It was the most shocking case I worked on. The Mumbai Police in its entirety was put to the task of nabbing the accused as early as possible. The common people were outraged by the crime.

For me, the most challenging part was extracting relevant information from the survivor and the eyewitness, at the time that I did. Apart from the immense pressure to deliver, there was the sensitive nature of the crime,” recalled Shaikh.

Also read: Shakti Mills gang-rape: The timeline

He added, “At 1 am, I got a call from the police and reached the hospital in half an hour. The place was teeming with police officers and media persons. It was very difficult to take information from the eyewitness. By 5 am, I had made the sketches, and the cops were out with them in search of the accused.”

Sanjay Nikumbe
Sanjay Nikumbe

Role: Investigation officer for the telephone operator’s rape in Shakti Mills
Designation: Police Inspector of Crime Branch Unit III
On April 4, the court awarded two of the accused life sentences, on the basis of a 362-page chargesheet filed by the police team led by Sanjay Nikumbe.

“Though three of the accused were common to both cases, we had to arrest two other accused, one of whom was a minor. Once we arrested them, we started collecting evidence and technical evidence. Though there was little forensic evidence, we managed to get the call detail records, conducted an identification parade and found witnesses, so that we could wrest life terms for the accused,” said Nikumbe.

Nitin Yadav
Nitin Yadav

Role: Sketch artist
Nitin Yadav (49) a Kurla-based schoolteacher, has been working as a sketch artist with the police for decades. Speaking to mid-day, he said, “I have been doing this for over 25 years now and the gang-rape was one of the most brutal cases I worked on. I was summoned by the police and reached at the police station at 2.30 am, where the atmosphere was extremely tense.

By 6 am, I had drawn two sketches on the basis of the description provided to me by the survivor. With the help of this portrait, the first arrest was made in the case. I am extremely happy that the culprits have been given capital punishment. I feel good when sketches made by me lead to arrests of criminals. I will continue to serve society in this manner.”

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