POLICE ARRESTED a 60-year-old man — a self-styled ‘godman’ — last week for allegedly molesting a minor girl near a dargah in Mankhurd, an eastern suburb of Mumbai. The accused, Gulam Mohammad Rafiq Sheikh, who was known as ‘seetiwale baba’ in his locality, had been absconding for over three months and was finally apprehended by the Mankhurd police on December 23. Sheikh, a resident of Shivaji Nagar in Bainganwadi, used to spend most of his time at a dargah near Karbala maidan in the locality, where he did odd jobs. He kept whistling around the compound of the dargah and hence acquired the nickname of ‘seetiwale baba’.
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According to police, the incident occurred on the evening of September 6. The victim had gone to the Karbala maidan around 6.30 pm to play. Thereafter, she went to the dargah around 7.30 pm to get offerings for her home. The accused, who was present at the compound, lured her to a dark alleyway behind the dargah and made her sit on his lap and touched her inappropriately, the police said. A few people from the locality saw the incident. The accused ran off fearing he would be caught and beaten up.
The victim later returned home, in a scared state, and did not reveal details of what had happened. It was only when locals who had witnessed the incident informed the victim’s mother that the girl finally opened up. The victim’s parents then filed a complaint at Mankhurd police station.
“Upon registering the complaint we went to pick up the accused from the dargah, but after knowing that police are looking for him, he fled. He was not there even at his residence in Shivaji Nagar, where his son lived,” said Sarjerao Patil, investigating officer in the case at the Mankhurd police station.
“He had been absconding for over three months. His son even changed his address in the same locality after we kept enquiring about the accused,” he added. The accused had gone to Uttar Pradesh for a month and had then returned to Mumbai.
On December 23, after receiving a tip-off that the accused had come to his son’s new home in Shivaji Nagar, the police arrested him. According to officer Patil, the accused had even applied for anticipatory bail twice while he was on the run. “The sessions court rejected his bail plea both the times when I said that he is not living at his address provided in the plea application and has been on the run,” the officer said.
The accused was sent in judicial custody by sessions court on Tuesday. A case under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code, read with Sections 8 (punishment for sexual assault) and 12 (punishment for sexual harassment) of the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act has been registered against the accused at Mankhurd police station.