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Mumbai: Dalit woman says kept as bonded labourer, raped by 11 and left for dead

Updated on: 07 July,2023 04:49 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Diwakar Sharma |

Her husband who works with her at Satara charcoal manufacturing facility, found her and they managed to escape to Raigad where later activists took them to a police station in Virar

Mumbai: Dalit woman says kept as bonded labourer, raped by 11 and left for dead

Mandvi police station in Virar where the woman’s statement was recorded. Pic/Hanif Patel

The Mandvi police station in Virar East received a case of gang-rape and bonded labour on Thursday. The 28-year-old survivor, a mother of two, belongs to the primitive Katkari tribal community and is a native of Raigad district. She claimed she was raped by nearly one dozen men including the owner of a charcoal manufacturing unit at Phaltan in Satara district. The police are verifying her claims and at the time of going to press, were in the process of recording her statement.

After the registration of the FIR, it will be transferred to the local police station in Phaltan for further investigation,” said a source from Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar (MBVV) police. A team of cops has been sent from Satara to Virar to take the survivor to the crime spot to assist in the investigation. “The woman claimed that she was gang-raped by around 11 men who took turns. According to the woman, the horrific incident took place around 10 days ago when she had migrated along with 20 other families to work as a bonded labourer,” said an officer attached to Mandvi police station.

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The owner of the charcoal manufacturing unit at Phaltan in Satara district who kept the couple as bonded labourers has been detained. Representation pic
The owner of the charcoal manufacturing unit at Phaltan in Satara district who kept the couple as bonded labourers has been detained. Representation pic

The incident came to light after the woman and her husband managed to escape the horrific workplace under cover of night on Tuesday and the monsoon. “After the incident, the woman is in shock. The accused had kept her husband tied in a separate room and taken her to another place to rape her. Later the accused believed that she had died, so they left her at the spot and set her husband free,” Vivek Pandit, chairman, Tribal Development Review Committee, Maharashtra told mid-day.

“Mustering courage, the woman and her husband managed to escape from the crime scene in the middle of the night when it was raining. They risked their lives and reached their hometown in Raigad district where members of Shramjeevi Sanghatana learnt about the incidents and brought the duo to my office in Vasai taluka,” Pandit said.

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After listening to their ordeal, Pandit informed the Special IG, Konkan Region Praveen Pawar, who immediately informed his team members. But as the survivor was located in the jurisdiction of MBVV police then, she was taken to Mandvi police station. The Superintendent of Police of Satara district, Sameer Shaikh, has been apprised of the case. A reliable source told mid-day that the accused Balu Shaikh has been detained by Satara police.

Accused booked earlier

“Balu Shaikh is a tainted man and in the past, he was booked under Child Labour Act. But he was never arrested. The cops have him detained after the matter surfaced in Mandvi in Virar East,” said a reliable source from Satara. Pandit said, “While the woman and her husband escaped, they could not bring their children along. Their children as well as her parents-in-law have still been kept as bonded labourers at the charcoal manufacturing unit at Satara. At least 20 such families still stuck there should be rescued with the immediate intervention of government machinery."

“The Katkari community are a primitive tribe who are extremely poor. They don’t have houses to live in and food to eat. The migration rate of the community is extremely high. They leave their home towns in search of work and often fall into such labour traps,” Pandit said. “I would request the state government to provide immediate relief to these migrants by rehabilitating them. The accused must be given maximum and exemplary punishment,” Pandit said.

Tribals suffering

In August 2021, a tribal man killed himself as he was unable to repay R500 that he had borrowed from a local MLA’s aide to perform his son’s last rites. The tribal man was forced to work the fields without pay, and eventually killed himself. The accused was booked under the Bonded Labour Act. In September 2022, an Igatpuri tribal girl’s death exposed a bigger bonded labour racket. The ten-year-old had been sent to work in Ahmednagar after her parents took a loan of R3,000 from her employer; she was left at her parents’ door on August 27, severely injured.

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Rs 500
Debt amount that a tribal man killed himself over in 2021

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