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In Shahdara locality where woman was raped and paraded, bootleggers reign supreme

Despite a police booth barely 100 metres from where the incident took place, locals say it has been a hub for bootleggers and smack sellers for as long as they remember.

Written by Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
January 29, 2022 8:34:36 am
A beer bottle at a footpath near Shahdara flyover. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna, File)

The Shahdara locality where a woman was paraded with a blackened face and a garland of shoes around her neck, not long after allegedly being raped, is known to be a hotbed of petty crime and bootleg liquor, a combination that, locals say, makes them feel unsafe even in their own homes.

Despite a police booth barely 100 metres from where the incident took place, locals say it has been a hub for bootleggers and smack sellers for as long as they remember.

Police, on their part, say whenever they try to enforce law and order in the area, they are met with resistance from some locals, who have even pelted stones in the past.

On Wednesday, as the woman was paraded, some could be seen in a video cheering and clapping. Her family alleged nobody from their locality called the police, and it was only after an hour and a half that her sister managed to get a phone from a neighbour and called the cops.

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Swati Maliwal, the DCW chairperson, said, “When people are not caught and punished for selling illicit liquor and drugs, they get emboldened and commit bigger crimes. We saw how the locals did not intervene. The oppression by illegal liquor sellers is crazy. Half of the locals are scared of such criminals and the other half support them because they have power. The police must step up and take action against such people.”

The Indian Express also accessed a complaint lodged by the victim’s family around a week before the incident. In it, her sister alleges that their aunt was being harassed by the accused. “These people say that they aren’t scared of policemen… They sell liquor and that’s how they run their house… I am in danger. They give me death threats… I stay in fear and don’t step out of my house,” reads the complaint.

Retired police officers who have worked in the area say locals aren’t cooperative when police try to crack down on crime.

In 2019, a 58-year-old sub-inspector was killed, allegedly by a suspected criminal. Then too, locals had not intervened.

L N Rao, a retired DCP, said, “I have worked in Shahdara and know the area. We tried to arrest criminals but they have attacked my colleagues many times. Women are the front and don’t fear the law. Most of the houses there have members who are involved in bootlegging. It is difficult. I also feel that the district police should have been more active in this case and increased deployment.”

Seven of the arrested accused in this case are women.

A former Delhi Police Commissioner, who did not wish to be identified, said, “I believe the main issue is the lawlessness in the area. These are hardened criminals, known for selling smack and liquor. Even if we arrest them, they wait for bail and then continue to commit the same crimes.”

The fear is palpable among locals, who speak on condition of anonymity and say they have little hope of help from authorities.

A woman who runs a shop in the area said, “People are robbed of their phones, their chains. Fights break out often. The accused family are powerful people; everyone fears them because they sell liquor and drugs. The police booth here is always vacant and officers don’t take our complaints.”

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