A series of circumstances had contrived against Mohammed Mustafa, 30, a skating instructor at Bangalore’s Vibgyor High, whom the police had arrested on July 20 and charged with raping a six-year-old, only to decide to drop the charges against him. The new suspects are two gym instructors, Waseem Pasha, 28, and Lalgiri, 21, whom the police have arrested, Bangalore commissioner M N Reddi said.
The police virtually admitted it had erred in arresting Mustafa, father of a child himself. New evidence gathered had revealed that it was the two gym instructors who had confined the child in the gymnasium on July 3.
One of the essential facts that led to Mustafa’s arrest was the complaint filed by the parents of the child stating that the incident occurred on July 2 when a shadow teacher assigned to their daughter was not present and she was under Mustafa’s care for a while.
A second factor in the case that went against him was the finding of child pornography on his laptop by investigators from the Central Crime Branch. “The laptop contains incriminating pornographic videos — all of schoolchildren. This provided a window to the mind of the accused,’’ then police commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar said on July 20. Auradkar was shifted out of the post on July 21 over the school rape issue.
A third factor was a report from a previous employer, Deens Academy in Bangalore, which said that he had been dismissed for allegedly touching students despite warnings against doing so, and other misdemeanours. “We inquired with a former employer who pointed out that there was a particular case where Mustafa was caught exposing a minor to explicit videos. However no complaint was made,” police commissioner Auradkar had stated.
Crucially, mounting public pressure, including street protests and rallies on July 19 where the police were booed for inaction, is believed to have contributed to the arrest of Mustafa despite lack of sufficient evidence.
The child had not identified him as the man who assaulted her, Mustafa refused to admit he had committed the offence, and there was no CCTV, medical or biological evidence linking him to the assault.
According to Reddi, sustained investigation including sensitive handling by experts of the child has resulted in more detailed information and concrete evidence emerging. “A child’s version of things that occurred is not usually as clear as that of an adult. We handled the child sensitively with the help of experts to glean information about the crime and the new arrests were made,” Reddi said at a press conference to announce the new arrests.
The child suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Police said the experts who spoke to her found that the incident occurred on July 3 and not July 2. Earlier July 2 was suspected to have been the date since the shadow teacher was not at work that day. On July 3, the shadow teacher was at work but not present in the gym when the incident occurred.
CCTV footage revealed that the child was confined in the gym for nearly 20 minutes on July 3 after all other children were sent out. Investigations revealed that Pasha and Lalgiri were in the gym. Under sustained interrogation, Pasha and Lalgiri reportedly confessed.
Police sources said Pasha and Lalgiri were initially among the prime suspects since they were normally in the gym area. A medical test had been conducted earlier on Pasha but had not thrown up leads, sources said.
In an effort to avoid stating that Mustafa had been wrongfully arrested, the Bangalore police have booked him under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, for the alleged offences he committed more than two years ago at the Deens Academy. “He will not be charged in the sexual assault case at Vibgyor,” additional commissioner of police (law and order) Alok Kumar said. The charges against Mustafa will be dropped at the time of the filing of the chargesheet in the case and the skating instructor, who is currently in judicial custody, is likely to seek bail under the changed circumstances over the next week.
Following the arrest of Mustafa, the police had also tracked down and arrested the chairman of the school, Mumbai businessman Rustom Kherawala, on charges of suppressing information. The arrest of Kherawala is believed to have resulted in better cooperation in investigations by the school management.