A WEEK after a 23-year-old dietician was allegedly molested and pushed out of a moving autorickshaw in Thane, the police have claimed that they have arrested two accused. The arrested duo are the autorickshaw driver and a co-passenger involved in the alleged crime.
A complaint registered against unidentified persons on June 7 had led to concerns over the safety of women travelling in autorickshaws in Thane and a delegation of women autorickshaw drivers had approached the Thane police last week raising the concerns. The Joint Commissioner of Police, Thane, Madhukar Pandey, said: “After the incident came to light, we formed 10 teams as it was a sensitive issue. Eventually, we arrested the two accused, Santosh Lokhande and Lahoo Ghogare, who were behind the attack.”
The incident took place last Wednesday when the 23-year-old woman hailed a shared autorickshaw from Teen Hath Naka Junction to go towards Ghodbunder Road around 9.45 pm. A co-passenger allegedly molested her while the driver diverted the vehicle towards Pokharan Road, away from the route to Ghodbunder.
When the woman resisted, the two men hit her and pushed her out of the moving autorickshaw. She then raised the alarm, following which local people helped her and an FIR was registered against unidentified persons. The local police and the crime branch, however, did not meet with any success during the initial investigation. They went through recordings of CCTV cameras installed along the route, prepared sketches of the accused and 10 teams were formed to solve the case. A total of 1,500-2,000 people had been interrogated.
Recently, the zonal deputy commissioner, Dr S Swami, received a tip off that one of the accused was at the Civil Hospital in Thane. At the hospital, the police found Lokhande who had been admitted there with a liver ailment. The police detained him there and found that he was allegedly planning to leave the hospital in the next few hours. They also found that Lokhande’s wife had lodged a missing persons complaint claiming that he had been missing for the past few days. “We are checking if the complaint was lodged to help Lokhande get an alibi,” an officer said.
On sustained interrogation, Lokhande allegedly confessed to the crime and told the police that his accomplice, auto driver Ghogare, was also involved in the incident. He led a police team to Ghogare’s residence where the driver was arrested as he came there in the autorickshaw, in which the woman had been allegedly molested.
The duo have cases lodged against them. The Wagale police had registered a case of rioting against Ghogare in 2006 and booked Lokhande for assault in 2004. Pandey said the accused had not put up a photo identity card in his autorickshaw that has been made mandatory by the transport department.