A Mumbai sessions court has convicted four men accused of gang raping a Mumbai photojournalist in August 2013, reports Reuters. The 22-year-old journalist was raped in the desolate Shakti Mills Compound in the Lower Parel locality of the city while on a photography assignment with her colleague. The rape had led to widespread protests in the city and the rest of the country. Soon after the photojournalist came forward to report the rape, another girl came forward and claimed that she too had been raped by the same group. The rapists have been convicted in the second case as well and are likely to get life terms, reports The Times Of India. Two other members of the gang are underage and are being tried in a juvenile court.
The key accused in the rape case are Mohammed Salim Ansari, Siraj Rehmat Khan, Vijay Mohan Jadhav and Mohammed Kasim Hafeez Shaikh – also known as Kasim Bangali. The court is likely to announce the verdict tomorrow following which the accused can appeal in a higher court. “Today’s verdict will send a strong message to criminals,” R. R. Patil, home minister for Maharashtra, the state where Mumbai is located, told reporters outside the court.
75 witnesses were questioned by Public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam who was visibly glad at the findings of the court. “I’m very glad that the court has found them guilty,” he said. Ex joint commissioner of Mumbai Police Himanshu Roy too was glad at the sentencing and said, “This is going to send a strong signal.”
The rape came as shock to Mumbai which was long considered the safest and the most cosmopolitan city in India. Also, the fact that it had happened just months after the infamous New Delhi gang rape where a medical student was brutally killed following rape had stirred up emotions throughout the country. There were widespread protests in Delhi and around India after the December 2012 rape and so was the case with the Mumbai rape case as well.
The December 2012 rape had forced the Indian government to enact new anti-rape laws and legislation. There was a lot of public debate about sex crimes in general.
However, some experts believe that only some rapes get high publicity and that the vast majority go unreported owing to the social the stigma victims face after going public with their ordeal. According to the WSJ, over 1,500 rapes were reported in 2013 in Delhi alone. This is the highest number of cases that the city has seen in a decade. For comparisons sake, there were only 706 reported rape cases in Delhi in 2012. However, many are of the belief that the sudden rise in the numbers is due to the new found awareness regarding strong anti rape laws and the willingness for people to overcome the fear of a possible social stigma associated with rape.
[Image Via European Pressphoto Agency]