After arresting eight accused, including four BJP office-bearers, for their roles in the alleged Naliya gangrape case, the ninth accused, named as “Vipul Thakkar” by the victim, has foxed the Kutch West police, which is investigating the case. Police said that it called all those named “Vipul Thakkar” from across the district and paraded them before the victim, but she could not corroborate any of them. “We searched all contacts from her phone and Facebook, but Vipul Thakkar is yet to be identified. We are still trying,” said Superintendent of Police Makrand Chauhan. The police are now interrogating the rest of accused mentioned in the FIR who have been arrested. One of the four BJP office-bearers accused in the case, Shantilal Solanki, is the convenor of the party’s OBC cell of Abdasa taluka. All four have been suspended by the BJP.
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The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have held demonstrations, seeking inquiries by a sitting judge and a Special Investigation Team, respectively, in the case. Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel also met the parents of the victim in Naliya on Monday. The victim has alleged that she was raped for nearly a year by different accused who videographed her on their phones to blackmail her. In her statement, which is part of the FIR, the victim has mentioned three accused — Shantilal Solanki, Bharat Darji and Vipul Thakkar — who all raped her multiple times. They also reportedly told the victim, “We have too many clippings of girls and they have a group of 65 people, including politicians, and they have 35 to 40 girls in their grip…” The statement mentions the name of another girl who has been alleged to have been running a “sex racket”.
The victim has specifically mentioned a person from Kotharana village and a woman identified as “Bhabhi”, who runs a catering service. She allegedly holds the key to the “racket”. Chauhan told this paper, “Although she has mentioned this ‘Bhabhi’ in the FIR, she has given her clean chit during our cross examination.”
According to police, the victim, who was living with her husband in Mumbai, had come back to her village after she had a fight with him in August 2015. The woman identified as Bhabhi is said to be the first the person who gave shelter to the victim and gave her a job.
Embarrassed by the allegations against its district leaders, BJP sprang to defence as minister of state for home Pradeepsinh Jadeja also issued a statement stating that the BJP workshop had nothing to do with the case being investigated as that of gangrape. This was following reports in a section of the media suggesting that “social women” were allegedly engaged at a workshop of the party in Kutch last year.
On February 9, a local court in Naliya sent suspended BJP leader Shantilal Solanki on a 14-day police remand. Reports also suggested that the party had issued identity cards to these women with their pictures designating them as “social lady”. Home minister Jadeja and BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya have denied this.
The woman has alleged that Solanki gave her job at an LPG distribution agency in Naliya in late 2015, called her at his residence in the name of giving her advance salary ahead of Diwali and raped her after drugging her. Chauhan and Vipul Thakkar, who were also present in the house, later took turns to rape the victim. The complainant has stated that nine persons raped her at different occasions for about an year since then as Solanki kept on blackmailing her into silence, threatening her to make an alleged video clip he had shot while raping her in Naliya.
The woman has also named Govind Parumalani, a secretary of BJP’s Gandhidham unit; Vasant Bhanushali and Ajit Ramwani, both sitting BJP councillors in Gandhidham in Kutch as accused who also raped her. The BJP had suspended Solanki, Parumalani, Bhanushali and Ramwani after the police established their identity after recording the statements of the victim and checking their Facebook profiles.