A tense silence hangs in the air around Shyam Nagar slum in Jogeshwari West, where a 28-year-old woman was allegedly gangraped when she was out house-hunting with her husband on Monday. The locals, who knew the eight accused, are both shocked at the conduct of the youngsters and fear the bad name the incident has brought to the locality.
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The slum, located just off Veera Desai road, is home to six of the eight accused arrested by the Amboli police in connection with the crime. They have lived there in a closely knit community for years.
Salma Sheikh, a 55-year-old woman who works as a masseuse in nearby apartment buildings, lives right at the edge of the hillock atop which the incident took place inside a tenement. Salma was there on Monday night, when the incident happened.
Recalling the incident, Salma said, “A man came running down from the hillock, shouting that he was being beaten up by the accused. He told us frantically that the accused were forcing themselves upon the victim,” Salma said.
“Shocked, I started shouting towards the hillock and other people joined in. The noise scared away the eight attackers, who ran away through nearby shrubbery,” the 55-year-old said.
She added, “The woman then came down the hillock, shaken and in tears. We did not know the couple. They said they were visiting a family friend in the locality for Diwali,” Salma added.
The friend, a woman who works at a hospital, had given the keys to her house to the couple to stay for the night and had left for work herself. That was when the accused are said to have assaulted the couple.
The slum residents are visibly shocked at the events. “Nothing like this has ever happened in our locality,” said a resident of the slum who wished to remain anonymous. “Those men were from nice families, some of them had wives and children,” he said of the accused. “They have never been involved in such activities.”
“Police has been trawling in the area day and night. The slum has got a bad name now,” said another resident.
The eight accused had allegedly held and beaten up the man outside the house, and taken turns to rape the victim inside. The entire episode is said to have lasted for an hour.