Shivaji ‘bhakts’ molest, strip trekkers in Lonavala, 10 held

Pune: A group of trekkers who were camping at fort in Lonavala near here were allegedly roughed up, and male members humiliated by being forced to strip, by 10 to 12 men and women, who claimed to be Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ‘bhakts’, on New Year’s eve, police said on Wednesday. The victims, who had came to celebrate New Year at Visapur Fort, had registered through a website for the camp at Lonavala, about 50 kms from here. The incident comes close on the heels of an alleged mass molestation of women on December 31 night in Bengaluru. According to a police complaint registered by a 36-year-old woman from Pune, 10 to 12 men and women, who claimed to be members of a ‘fort lovers’ group, allegedly roughed them up with sticks and belts.

A day after they lodged a complaint with Lonavala rural police, they arrested ten people on Wednesday, including three women.

Those arrested have been identified as Amol Shankar Chavan, Kiran Ashok Jadhav, Digambar Shataram Padwal, Rajesh Vishnu Dalavi, Arun Mohan Tambe, Akshay Mahadev Takawale, Nitin Kalyan Salunkhe, Rasika Prakash Varudkar, Nisha Ambadas Chaudhari and Kajal Mahesh Pawar. Lonavala rural police have registered a case of outraging a woman’s modesty under Section 354, criminal intimidation under Section 506, voluntarily causing grievous hurt under Section 325 and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The victim also alleged that the accused humiliated the male trekkers by forcing them to strip and abused the women. “I along with my husband and other fellow couples had booked a camp, which was organised at Visapur Fort, through a website,” said the complainant, a fitness trainer, who claimed she suffered a hand fracture in the incident. “We reached the spot at around 1 PM on December 31 and found that there were around 25 more couples, who too had come on New Year’s eve through the same organisers,” the woman said in her complaint.

“At around 9.30 PM, we were sitting around a camp fire when 10 to 12 persons came and accused us of littering the place,” she said. “One of the women came near me and snatched a glass of cold drink. She thrashed me with a stick and kicked me and accused us of littering the fort,” she alleged. Later, the other accused forced male trekkers to strip and thrashed them with sticks and belts, and hurled abuses at the women, the victim said in her statement to police. She said the accused also roughed up the event organiser and warned all of them not to come back to the fort.

“The people who had attacked us even called our families and told them that we were indulging in obscene act by consuming liquor,” the woman told PTI. The complainant said with the help of some villagers, they managed to leave the place and later reported the matter to police. “We have registered a case of rioting against 10 to 12 people, including women, belonging to a ‘fort lovers’ group and investigation is on,” Assistant Police Inspector at Lonavala Rural Police Station Sandip Yede-Patil said. Six of the accused have been identified so far, he said.