Head constable Suresh Annapa Mahapure’s lasting, and embarrassing, memory is how, in frustration, he just grabbed a mango off a cart and bit into it, unmindful of the pulp dripping down his shirt. Assistant inspector Rajinder Bhonsle says the daily parades for 17 days will be what he will always remember of his years in service, when he retires seven months from now. The four months they spent sitting across minor victims, trying to get every detail they could, will be an experience women officers will take a long time to forget. Nor will the officials who pored over three hours of CCTV footage in all and old files, joining the dots.
They were among 26 officials who, between January 18, 2013, and April 17, 2014, were involved in one of the biggest manhunts the Mumbai police have seen in recent years. Since then, the man they caught, Ayyaz Mohammed Ali Ansari, 32, has been booked in 25 sexual assault cases, including two of rape under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
On the morning of January 18, 2013, an angry woman walked into the Dadabhai Naoroji Nagar police station in Andheri West, complaining that her 10-year-old granddaughter had been molested.
Inspector Ajay Kshirsagar dispatched two policewomen to the child’s house. The girl said she had been lured through a small lane behind a mosque. She recalled seeing a water tank, a stone path, a car parking lot, and the outside of a building, as she followed that stranger. She had gone with him after he had told her he was her father’s friend and wanted her to give her father his mobile number.
“We asked her everything possible. It was difficult,” recalls Kshirsagar.
The girl revealed that her assaulter had been of dark complexion, his hair thick and bunched together when brushed back from his face, that he had a broad but flat forehead, a thick moustache and long eyebrows. The top two buttons of his shirt were open.
In the evening, the women officers who had met the 10-year-old sat with an artist to draw a sketch. However, when it was taken back to the girl, she felt crucial details were missing though the features appeared accurate. Now she added that the shirt the molester wore was loose and not tucked into his trousers, he had slippers on, and he had a paunch. The child also recalled struggling against a pair of “hairy arms”.
While these details continued…