|Mumbai gang-rape suspects are local criminals
As Mumbai reels over the gang-rape of a young female photographer in the heart of the city last week, angry neighbors of the arrested suspects describe a gang of jobless youths known for petty theft and drinking.
The five men are accused of repeatedly raping the 22-year-old woman and attacking her male colleague in an abandoned mill compound in central Mumbai, known as a haven for drink and drug addicts.
While neighborhoods of luxury apartments, office blocks and malls are close to the scene of the crime, most of the accused gang members hailed from nearby slums.
“They were local criminals,'' said Ajit Pevekar, a 32-year-old neighbor and community worker.
The eldest suspect, 27-year-old Mohammed Salim Ansari, was the last to be arrested on Sunday in New Delhi after fleeing from his home in eastern Mumbai.
His four alleged accomplices, aged between 18 and 24 according to police, were from nearer the mill in slums surrounding Dhobi Ghat, a site famed as the world's largest outdoor laundry.
The men have not yet been formally charged.
Unlike the industrious washermen of Dhobi Ghat, three of the suspects known to Pevekar “had no regular work, were playing cards all the time, and all of them drank,’’ he told AFP, adding that the men would regularly snatch people's chains or purses.
One of the accused, 18-year-old Vijay Mohan Jadhav, went for tea near the police station just hours after the alleged offense Thursday, and next day went to see a Bollywood movie with Ansari, the DNA newspaper reported.
“The people feel they should be handed over to us, and we will beat them,'' Pevekar said.
The victim now in hospital, is said to be stable and recovering.
Mumbai's chief of police, Satyapal Singh, said the suspects were all unemployed school drop-outs, three with criminal records for theft.
Mohammed Kasim Hafeez Shaikh, known locally as Kasim Bangali, had four criminal cases to his name and was, according to Indian media, the suspected gang-leader.
Sitting quietly in a one-roomed slum next to a busy road and overflowing rubbish bins, Bangali's mother told AFP he was only 17, although police remand documents said he was 21.
“I don't believe it, but the police say yes, they have done it,'' she said.
The grandmother of another suspect, Chand Sattar Shaikh, has also insisted to local media that her relative is a juvenile – a claim again dismissed by the police, who say he is 19.
“Whatever happened, don't trouble me,'' the elderly woman, a lime-seller in a dark blue sari, told AFP.