When fashion designer Pia Grace and her fiancé Rahul Bawankule protested against drunk goons who were passing lewd comments, they were attacked by the 12 men; when she called 100, she was told to hold on to the goons until cops reached the spot; at the police station, cops refused to file an FIR saying they had “no time”
What should a woman in Mumbai do when she feels unsafe at night? When a 22-year-old Versova resident and her fiancé were attacked by some goons on Thursday night, she thought the answer was to dial 100 for the Mumbai Police, but soon learned to her cost that there would be no help from that quarter.
At first, when the goons were passing lewd comments about her, it was her fiancé who came to her rescue and protested, but the gang then began to beat the couple up. Not only did the couple find no relief from the police helpline, they went through a three-hour ordeal before the cops were even ready to register a complaint. And even then, they refused to file an FIR, entering the complaint as a non-cognisable offence instead.
While the victim — fashion designer Pia Grace — and her fiancé escaped with their lives, the attack was a grim reminder of a similar incident in October, 2011, that led to the horrific murder of two youths (Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes) who were trying to protect their female friends from a gang of thugs in Amboli.
The incident took place around 11.45 pm in Aram Nagar, when Pia was heading home with her fiancé after shutting down her fashion studio. She noticed a group of 12 youths sitting opposite her bungalow, drinking and passing vulgar comments about her. Her fiancé, Rahul Bawankule (29), asked them to stop misbehaving and to go somewhere else. Instead, about five to six from the group began to beat him up, and when Pia tried to intervene, the rest of them attacked her.
The couple was roughed up by the group, but when Pia called the police helpline, she received an entirely unsatisfactory response. “Un logon ko pakad ke rakho, main police bhejta hoon (Catch the goons while I send the cops),” said the official at the control room. Pia protested, asking how she and her fiancé were expected to fight and subdue 12 people. She said that the culprits had already begun to flee, and the official said that in that case, there was no need to send cops there any more.
Shocked by the police’s attitude, the couple then went to Versova police station, where the second half of their ordeal was to begin.
“They beat my fiancé, they beat me and molested me as well, but after reaching the police station, the cops were behaving like I had gone there to file a bogus complaint,” Pia told mid-day.
This, despite the fact that the couple’s clothes were in tatters and they were visibly injured. “We spent around three hours in the police station. Both of us were in torn clothes, but none of the police officers or constables even asked us to sit, nor did they offer water. We were in a very bad condition and were not able to stand properly, but it took three hours before the on-duty officer as willing to file a non-cognisable offence,” Pia added.
She alleged that when she asked them to file an FIR instead, the cops said they “did not have the time” for the procedure. They asked her to go for a medical test, but when she said that it was late and asked to be escorted by a cop, they used the same excuse and said they didn’t have enough time or staff to send a cop with her. The one female constable who was present at the police station was busy on the phone, and did not even deign to ask what had happened, said Pia.
She further added, “The goons had threatened us before they left, saying they would kill us if we went to the police. If they attack us again, who will be responsible for that?”
The other side
Senior Police Inspector (SPI) Arundhati Rane of Versova police station said, “I have no knowledge about the incident. If the duty officer did not take her FIR, she should have approached the police inspector on duty.”