Lokmat forces inquiry into sex scandal

IN Regional Media | 06/05/2011
The Kolhapur sex scandal has come to light because one newspaper was bold enough to report on it.
PRABHAKAR KULKARNI, traces the sequence of events.
When law enforcers turn illegal on members of their own community it is time to hang our heads in shame. A constable working at a Maharashtra police training centre raped a trainee and on his arrest alleged that he was being made the fall guy as sexual harassment of women trainees was practiced by those at the top. This sexual harassment in Kolhapur came to light when Lokmat published a story to this effect without naming anyone. This is when the media in the state and elsewhere went to town flashing the story on television channels and newspapers and demanding immediate action against the top brass in the police force. Between the 24th and 30th of April the situation turned so dramatic and sensational that the whole Maharashtra state police department was shaken up by the exposure.
The arrested head constable, Yuvraj Kamble, was not allowed to speak to the media but while he was being taken to Court he exclaimed that he had been framed and the culprits were the higher officials of the department. He deposed to the same effect in the court. The whole saga took on a new turn when Kolhapur MP Sadashiv Mandalik alleged that 11 women constables had been sexually harassed and many were pregnant and that the sex scandal ran deeper than suspected.
Within days the event was sufficiently politicized for opposition leader in the state Assembly Eknath Khadse of the BJP and Shiv Sena MLA Neelam Gohre to come to Kolhapur and threaten that unless the concerned officials, including the district superintendent of police, were held questioned and some action taken, a massive agitation would be organized against the government. The threat galvanised the state government and particularly the home department which appointed a one person commission comprising additional superintendent of police at Nasik, Maithili Zha, who rushed to Kolhapur and started an inquiry.
After initial inquiry, the deputy superintendent of police Vijay Parkale and police inspector of the Shahupuri police station where lades constables were called for work, Dnaneshwar Munde, were suspended. Both Khadse and Neelam Gohre then demanded that district superintendent of police Yashwai Yadav should be urgently transferred so that the inquiry would not be influenced by him. The state home minister R.R.Patil then transferred Yadav to Amaravati to join a non-executive post in the state secret intelligence department.
In the meanwhile medical reports of two trainees indicated that they were pregnant and while one was married the other was unmarried. The latter, who had alleged rape, also said that the head constable had forced her to abort her pregnancy. MP Mandalik has continued to stick to his stance that the suspended officials were notorious for their working style and dealing with women police constables.
Opposition political parties and women’s organizations have demanded independent inquiry of the whole episode under a retired Judge so that it can be carried out judiciously and without any pressure. They fear that since Ms Zha is part of the police force there may be attempts to influence her. The National Women’s Commission has taken note of the episode and indicated readiness to hold independent inquiry into the matter.
Local newspapers have now been emboldened to write about DSP Yada alleging that his department was suppressing serious complaints and that no action would have been taken even in the current case had the story not been published by Lokmat.
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