In the horrific case of the gangrape of a minor girl in Maharashtra’s Thane by 33 people, the victim was allegedly indirectly introduced to some of the accused through a man who was an acquaintance of her family.
According to the child’s statement to the police, the acquaintance, who is not one of the accused, has been visiting her family’s home since 2013. The victim, who is now 15 years old, described him as a “brother” to her. The acquaintance introduced her to one Sonu Mhatre, who goes by Virendra, telling her that Virendra would help her if she ever needed anything.
In December, Virendra allegedly introduced the child to Vijay Fukey and Tushar Kasbe. Vijay and Tushar are currently in police custody; Virendra is not an accused in the case.
In the past week, a total of 33 people, including two minors, have been arrested for allegedly raping the girl. The child was allegedly blackmailed and raped multiple times by the accused between January and September.
The incident came to light in September when the child informed her family members of what had happened. It had been her birthday and she was constantly receiving phone calls from some of the accused. The child’s aunt noticed that she was uneasy, spoke to her, and the truth came out.
With the help of a local NGO, the child’s family filed a complaint at Manpada police station.
All the accused are residents of Dombivli, where the child lived with her parents, while the alleged rapes took place in multiple locations in Thane district, including Dombivli, Vadvali, Navi Mumbai, Rabale, Murbad and Badlapur.
According to the child’s statement to the police, a copy of which was accessed by Newslaundry, when the acquaintance introduced her to Vijay, Vijay allegedly gave the child his phone number and began “communicating” with her on the phone.
Vijay is the prime accused in the case. His Instagram profile has his phone number, which is the number he used to contact the child. His posts include several congratulatory messages to local small-time leaders of the Yuva Sena and a group called the Deva Foundation.
A senior IPS officer told Newslaundry on the condition of anonymity that the accused comprise school dropouts, college students, and menial job workers. They’re all in the age group of 18 to 25, excluding the two minors.
“The prime accused knew the victim from before,” he said. “He made obscene videos of her and then blackmailed her. She was sexually assaulted by a chain of people who were common friends with each other.”
Details from the child’s statement
On January 29, her statement said, Vijay telephoned the child at around 9.40 am and asked to meet behind a local temple in Dombivli. The child allegedly went to the spot at 11 am and Vijay and one Chetan Rathod were waiting for her in Chetan’s auto rickshaw.
According to the police, Vijay is 20 years old and a resident of Sonarpada in Dombivli (East). He does recovery work for a private bank.
On the pretext of taking the child to Virendra’s home, they set off to the house of one Bhavesh Mhaske, picking up Tushar Kasbe along the way.
The child was allegedly raped by Vijay, while Tushar filmed it on his phone. Tushar, Chetan and Bhavesh then allegedly raped her in turn.
When the child went home, according to her statement, she stopped communicating with Vijay and deleted his phone number, and the phone numbers of their common acquaintances, from her phone. But in February, Vijay allegedly telephoned her again; she picked up the phone since she didn’t have his number saved. He asked to meet and she refused.
At 3 pm the following day, he met in her person – though it’s not clear where – and told her that if she didn’t meet him, he would send the video of her rape to her family. Frightened, she complied. Vijay allegedly took her to the home of a friend, Ashish Gaikwad, who is one of the co-accused in the case. Other accused – Atish Gaikwad, Tushar Kasbe, Chetan Rathod, Pintu Pal, Sumit Tayade and a minor – were present in Ashish’s home.
From left to right. Top row: Atish Gaikwad, Chetan Rathod, Omkar Gunjal. Second row: Sumit Tayade, Ashish Gaikwad, Prasad Bhise. Bottow row: Vijay Fukey, Bhavesh Mhaske, Tanish Sonawane.
From left to right: Chetan Rathod, Bhavesh Mhaske, Jay Shengde.
A schoolteacher who taught both Vijay Fukey and Sunil Tayade told Newslaundry the two were friends. “Tayade is from a very poor family,” the teacher said. “Both his parents are labourers.”
According to the statement, Vijay allegedly forced the child to consume a drugged drink, saying: “If you are not going to drink, I will send you home without clothes.” The child said she consumed the drink and passed out. When she regained consciousness, she felt intense pain in her genitals, she said in her statement, and was taken to her home by Tushar at 6.30 pm.
After this, Vijay, Tushar and Sumit repeatedly telephoned her, demanding that she meet them. The child refused, stating she was unwell. These calls continued until March 22, when Vijay again threatened her on the phone, saying he would make the video of her “viral” if she did not comply. The child met him and was allegedly taken in an auto to Ashish’s home. When they reached, she said, 15 men were present apart from Vijay and Chetan.
The other men have been identified as Swapnil Kadam, Sahil Mhatre, Jay Shendge, Gaurav Mali, Dheeraj Patil, Tanish Sonawane, Akshay Pawar, Dipal Sakpal and Anup, and a minor. The child was drugged, she said, and when she regained consciousness, she saw Sahil hand two Rs 500 notes to Ashish and Vijay. Again, she was dropped outside her home by Tushar and Ashish.
In her statement, the child said she began receiving phone calls from unknown numbers asking her to meet.
On May 5, the statement said, one of the accused who is a minor allegedly telephoned the child but she refused to meet him. One of the accused, Pintu Pal, then came to her house, showed her a copy of the video of the rape, and threatened to make it public.
The child then accompanied Pintu to a house. The minor accused, Atish and Pintu were allegedly present along with three others who have since been identified as Omkar Gunjal, Kailash Gaikwad and Yogesh. The child was allegedly forced to smoke hookah laced with narcotics and was raped in turn by all the men. At 6.30 pm, the statement said, she was taken to Ashish’s home where five men – Ashish, Chetan, Tushar, Sumit and Prasad Bhise – raped her again.
At 10.30 pm, Atish and Sumit allegedly took her by car to the home of one Raj Patil in Wadavali. Raj allegedly raped the child.
Atish took her back to her house at 3 pm on May 6. The child’s mother had filed a missing person complaint at the Manpada police station that day. The child, in her statement, said she did not tell her parents what had happened.
On May 16, Tanish Sonavane, one of the accused who also allegedly raped her, telephoned her. He blackmailed her again over the video, the statement said, and the child met him and one Rahul Devare who took her to a house in Navi Mumbai. There, she was allegedly forced to drink alcohol and was allegedly raped by eight men: Tanish, Rahul Devare, Sandip Jadhav, Suraj Patil, Darshan Jadhav and one Rahul. Tanish then left her outside her home that evening.
The child was allegedly hospitalised soon after.
On July 27, one Jitesh Pawshe allegedly telephoned the child and met up with her, under threat of blackmail. Along with a man named Ashok, Jitesh allegedly took her to a farmhouse in Murbad and raped her. On September 22, she was taken to a location in Dombivli by Bhavesh Mhaske where she was allegedly raped by a group of men.
The accused have been charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as well as sections of the Indian Penal Code. The Thane police has set up a special investigation team to probe the matter.