Ganpati visarjan means a day of mixed blessings for us photographers. It is a holiday, yet we are ‘on duty’. Our minds are always working, looking for the best shot and the unusual occurrence. The crowd is always moving, the mass of people is like a river, constantly shifting and changing.
In the midst of the mayhem, crimes and other misdeeds often go unnoticed. But being at a vantage point, my lens happened to capture the shocking incident of a female devotee being molested in the middle of the crowd that was following Lalbaugcha Raja.
How it happened
In order to get a bird’s-eye view of the scene, I was shooting from atop the Lalbaug flyover. A couple of my colleagues were there too, as well as other lensmen. My aim was to find out-of-the-ordinary images, but I never imagined what I would see.
MiD Day photographer Atul Kamble reveals the shocking scenes that he witnessed while covering Lalbaugcha Raja's visarjan procession
Lalbaugcha Raja takes a turn at the Bharatmata Cinema junction, on Ambedkar Road. It’s an ideal spot for photographs, and I was stationed on the flyover just near the junction. I was looking for what we call ‘mood’ shots, something different from the regular images of the procession. Hence my eye was on the movement of the people.
Around 1.30 pm, I noticed a girl moving quite fast, as if she was battling her way through the crowd. This seemed unusual to me so I trained my lens on her. She seemed to be accompanied by a boy and two other women. I then noticed that there were a few men who seemed to be touching people excessively in the guise of pushing them along.
I actually saw the man grab the girl, not once but several times, on the pretext of stabilising himself. In the heaving mass of people around, the girl was already finding it difficult to keep her balance and to keep moving.
Fighting off a molester was next to impossible. Moreover, as the pictures show, the man was adept at disguising his movements, to make it look like he was just jostling people like everyone else was doing. But his actions were clearly that of a molester. There also seemed to be other men with similar intentions.
These men appeared to be professional molesters, mingling with the crowd with one specific aim, just like pickpockets do. But what they steal is worse than purses and wallets.
My heart went out to the girl, but there was little I could do from the height of the flyover. There was no way to alert the police in the vicinity, and I could not see any uniforms nearby, as all the cops were near the idol’s truck, which was quite far away from where this incident was happening. All I could do was to keep shooting and capture the heinous act and hope that the pictures help bring the culprits to justice.
Joint Commissioner of Police, Sadanand Date, said, “I cannot comment on it unless I see the photographs.”
Additional Commissioner of Police (Central Region), Praveen Salunkhe, said, “I am on leave.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV), D Karale, said, “I cannot comment on this as I am busy at my relative's place.”
Senior Police Inspector Sunil Tondwankar of Bhoiwada police station said, “There was a foolproof bandobast at the spot. We have not come across any such incident or complaint so far.”