Days after three inmates of an ashram were arrested for allegedly raping a 35-year-old woman on its premises in Amreli, police have arrested three other persons, claiming to be from an NGO, for allegedly shooting a video of the woman and blackmailing the accused for Rs 45 lakh on the pretext of helping her.
According to police, the accused — Pravin Rathod, a native of Bhavnagar, Jigyesh Manvar, a resident of Dhasa junction in Botad, and Ramesh Maru, a resident of Khambha in Amreli — were arrested for trying to defame the rape survivor and blackmail the rape accused with the video of the survivor. Two women — Labhuben of Khambha in Amreli and Meena Ben of Botad — from the same unregistered NGO have also been booked.
The action follows the arrest of three men — Raghuram Bhagat, a resident of Lathi in Amreli, Jagdish Bhagat, a resident of Botad, and Bhavesh Bhagat, a resident of Botad — for allegedly raping the 35-year-old woman from Botad multiple times after confining her to a room for one-and-a-half years at Sat Devidas Ashram in Narayanagar village of Damnagar Taluka in Amreli.
A case of rape was lodged at Damnagar police station on June 20. According to police, the accused who identified themselves as ‘Sadhu Bhagat’ (devotees of a seer), belonged to one of the sects of Swami Narayan and stayed at the Sat Devidas Ashram in Amreli.
According to the complaint, the accused brought the woman from Botad to Amreli for labour work and later forced themselves on her on several occasions. The three then allegedly threatened that she would be framed in a false theft case if she revealed it to anyone.
“After the arrest of the three rape accused, we got to know that a few members of an unregistered NGO approached the woman offering to help her. They recorded her video and promised to help her but, instead, they uploaded the video on social media without her permission and demanded Rs 45 lakh from the three rape accused. After the woman filed a complaint, we booked an FIR at Damnagar police station on Monday and arrested the three late night on Monday. We also found out that the NGO they belonged to is an unregistered one. The two women related to the NGO have not been arrested yet and our investigation is on,” said VL Parmar, incharge officer, Damnagar police station.
All five accused have been booked under Indian Penal Code sections 389 (putting person in fear of accusation of offence, 120B (criminal conspiracy), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed) and 500 (defamation).
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