The police raids at hotels in Madh and Marve Thursday were allegedly carried out following an “unverified” tip-off that “prostitution-like activities” were happening there, senior officials admitted Sunday.
As outrage grew and the couples who were rounded up said they were “humiliated” by the police, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti said an inquiry had been ordered into the incident. Officials said the inquiry would also focus on the procedure that had been adopted for verification of the unverified tip-off.
The Mumbai Police had booked 13 couples for alleged indecent behaviour Thursday after knocking on hotel rooms and carting them away to Malvani police station.
The 26 were fined under Section 110 (indecent behaviour in public) of the Bombay Police Act, while three cases were registered for alleged prostitution under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act
The raid started at 3 pm and the couples were detained for five hours — allowed to leave only after they paid the fine. Police sources said a special team was formed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police Vikram Deshmane with four locations — two hotels and two cottages — “marked” for raids.
The tip-off, officials said, came from a local informer. Express spoke to said the “humiliation” continued even after they showed their ID documents to the police personnel.
“There was a knock on my door at 4 pm. A hotel employee asked us to come down with our ID cards. We were taken aback but we cooperated. Once we went down to the lobby, they (the police) made us stand in one single line in the compound and checked our IDs. We were checked at the hotel between 4 pm and 6.30 pm by various police personnel. Unhone humein bahut zaleel kiya (They humiliated us a lot),” said a 37-year-old man who was booked by the police.
Such was the haphazardness of the “special raid” that when the police van got filled with about 30 people, some tempos plying on the main road were stopped and used to ferry the remaining couples for nine kilometres to Malvani police station. Those who had their own cars were asked to drive to the police station, with a police official in the rear seat.
One couple said that when they reached the police station, they were asked to enter a large hall inside the station compound which was full of “about 100 people”, including other couples and police personnel in civilian clothes.
A police officer, who was part of the raid, said on condition of anonymity that “the couples were getting too close”, which is why they were booked on charges of “indecency”.
An eyewitness recalled that when a 21-year-old woman said she was with her fiance, a lady constable slapped her. “The lady constable told her to bring her children to prove they were a couple,” said the eyewitness.
The police also booked four of the owners of the establishments on charges of “nuisance” under the Bombay Police Act.
“They raided my hotel at 4 pm and didn’t leave until 7 pm. My guests were humiliated. They were asked to come to the compound and then questioned for hours as if they were terrorists,” said Harish Shetty, owner of Mantara Residency. Shetty said that 17 rooms were occupied by 17 couples, who were asked to come down.
“I have 48 cameras to prove what happened. The officers never identified themselves, they just told me that the DCP had ordered them to do so. We don’t know which rules we violated,” Shetty said.
At another hotel near Aksa beach, the receptionist said the police officials came in a van and a jeep. “They latched all three of our gates. While one officer checked the register, two women constable went knocking on every door, starting from the ground floor,” said the receptionist.
“They sent our bellboys to ask people to come down. One of our bellboys was slapped by an officer,” said the receptionist at another hotel. All hotels owners and spokespersons confirmed the police were accompanied by civilians who looked like informers.
Bharti, meanwhile, said, “The regional additional commissioner of police will look into the matter. The details of the operations are still sketchy. We are being informed by media reports. There is nothing so far about moral policing. The police does not support any of this.”
Fateh Singh Patil, Additional Commissioner of Police, North region, said he had been asked by his superiors on Sunday to “look into the matter and prepare a report regarding the operation”.
Deshmane confirmed that he had formed a team that acted on a tip-off regarding some “prostitution activities in that area”.
“Even locals have been constantly complaining about such activities in the area. There are even some guesthouses around that area which give rooms on an hourly basis.”
Asked why the people were fined under sections of indecent behaviour in a public place, Deshmane said, “I have been on leave since Thursday evening. I will have to review the papers and see the sections.”
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said he will review the incident after he returns to Mumbai from Nagpur Monday. Police Commisioner Rakesh Maria, who spoke against moral policing earlier this year, could not be reached for a comment.