Saturday, March 22, 2014

BREAKTHROUGH : Self-Confessed Online Child Predators To Be Caught

It is on the rise. We increasingly see gay dating spaces and also social networking sites being plagued with profile updates that state that they look for young boys. It is also important for people to know that insanity prevails in every group and every  sexuality. And just as the complete heterosexual community is not called promoting child trafficking because girls get abused and trafficked into prostitution (in larger numbers), we cannot hold the whole homosexual community responsible. In fact, as a gay person, I am more focused on child sexual abuse as an issue. And would stand up against child sexual abuse offenders – irrespective of what  sexuality they subscribe to.  Well, web patrolling is still at a nascent stage in India. the good news is that the police in Bombay does respond and assist you in every way possible. Yes, there are some trolls in the police, but that doesn't take away from the many who do their job very well. The truth is that it does take a lot of time for them to respond, and if it is an urgent case that needs immediate attention, the citizen needs to raise an appropriate alarm so that they could act more promptly.

I recently had a breakthrough in a child sexual abuse case. Of course the case took many follow ups and visits to police stations in distant corners of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. In May 2013, someone informed me about a status update on facebook that boasted about having sex with a 15 year old boy.   The profile was of someone who went by the name of Ajay Ahuja. If this status update was not disgusting enough, the comments that requested the child to be passed on to them after use, added to the repugnance.  I quickly recorded the complete conversation on my blog here with an open letter to the commissioner of police, Bombay. I also posted a copy of the letter to the cyber cell Mumbai through the online mode and the email ids mentioned here cybercellmumbai.gov.in/  I got a reference number from them.  After I had captured the post details on my profile. I highlighted this disgusting post on facebook in my profile, and urged people to complain and also report the post. The post was pulled down and my appeal to report this post was widely read by a lot of my friends and also shared. I asked the Cyber cell  of Mumbai at bandra to update me about the status of the case. I was asked to personally visit the Navi Mumbai Cyber cell and register a case there, since I am a navi Mumbai resident. I thought that it was absurd, because I am a complainant and I should be allowed to register the complaint anywhere, more so, because it was a cyber complaint. But I chose to not rant about the system but go personally for a human interface to the Navi Mumbai cyber cell at the Police Commissioners office in Belapur. The police knew about the laws of the land but had their own understanding and interpretation. The positive thing about the Bombay and Navi Mumbai police is that they are willing to listen to a counter view and correct their thoughts accordingly. At first, I had to meet their prejudices, they saw the case from the point of view of homosexuality. Their impression was that homosexuals have sex with minors. Though I had been to the police station to register a case of child trafficking/ child sexual abuse/ cyber crime, I ended up finding myself in a situation where I was debunking their myths and enlightening them with information about homosexuality.   I did so by coming out to the poilice about my sexuality, and told them that there are abusers and protectors in every community. I asked them to tell me how many cases of men abusing girl children they hear of. I then asked them how they would feel if I branded the whole community as rapists and child molesters because some are so. I made it more personal by asking them if they felt all heterosexuals were abusers, wouldn’t that generalization include them as well, as they are openly heterosexual. I had a three hour long conversation with the woman police officer there and explained the difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality and transgenders and how any one could be a child protector and anyone could be a child molester. The police took my complaint and told me that they will investigate the matter thoroughly. 

I followed up with the police for a while and then got embroiled in other issues of counseling that needed my immediate attention,  that this took a back burner. 8 months later, on  15 December 2013, I received a call from the police station of the jurisdiction of my residence in Navi Mumbai. The Kamote police station again had the same set of prejuidices about the Gay community. I had to spend around the same amount of time explaining that gays are not equal to child molesters. But human depravity is universal and cuts across all genders and sexualities. Again, as a serial coming-out person, I came out to them. They gave me a compassionate ear, they also told me that they have found a residential address to the IP address. They also had finer details of the person at the IP address , like his name and the number. I thought that the next process would be to just call the number and nab the person. But then came a rude shock. The police officer told me  that the case needs to be transferred to the Bangur Nagar police station, which is in Malad, more than 50 KMs away. When I asked them why would they not take cognizance of the case they pointed at a comment by the culprit Ajay Ahuja in the comments section of his facebook update in which he said that he lived in Bangur Nagar. I found it absurd and was immensely frustrated. I wondered how difficult it would be for someone to even follow up on an online complaint if you are thrown from one police station to the other. I was annoyed, but refused to lose hope. I had already spent 8 months following up, I had made a habit of waiting for justice. Through the feeling of annoyance loomed over me, I was pretty sanguine about the fact that the case was moving forward.  After this, I interacted the kamote police station a few times for other cases and checked with them about this particular case. Their answer was that I will hear from the Bangur Nagar police station.

On 20 February 2014, I received a call from Police Sub Inspector Deokhale from Bangur Nagar police station. The inspector called me over to the police station to understand what the case was and how he could help. I didn’t find time until 21 March 2014 to visit the police station which was 2 hours away by road from my office, given the traffic in the western line. PSI Deokhale was most compassionate. He assured me of complete cooperation and thanked me for taking up the case. He explained to me that the best thing would be to pursue the case from my jurisdiction because in case of follow ups and visits to the courts it would be more convenient, but having said that, he also assured me that he would take cognizance of the case if I intended to pursue it further. He and I had a long chat where I continued the rigmarole that I followed in the preceeding police stations. This one was different. He patiently wrote my complaint and had a discussion with me about the possible outcomes of the case. He said that he would file a case under the IT acts and then down the line,  take it up for further investigation under POCSO (protection of children from sexual offences act 2012) as the investigation proceeds. He was amazed at the perseverance and was also shocked that I had to go through so many police stations to pursue the case.  He gave me a case number and told me that he would call me back in a week to update me on the status of the case. He instantly shared his personal number with me. Now all that needs to be done is that the culprit needs to be called to the police station and visit the court to explain his stance. He may go off the trap as in such cases there needs to be a victim present. And to trace a victim in this case would be difficult. This could also have been a case of simple chest-thumping about having sex whereas nothing really could have happened. The fact, but lies that they would have to go through the embarrassment of cops visiting the house to summon them and a visit to court to explain the stance is inevitable.

the case number. 
I am immensely thankful to Madhavi Rajadhyaksha for taking this up not as a personal cause and not just merely a media interest story and dipesh tank for connecting me to her. Aamir, Svati, Satyajit, Advait, Vidhi, Prerna, Rahul , Lancy , Chandni, Subuhi –  the police has been raving about the episode on police reforms in  Satyamev Jayate. Mr. Deokhale from Bangur Nagar police station and others there asked me to thank you all for such a sensitive portrayal. They were very happy when they realized that I was a visible as a part of the family in Season 1.

I hope this post serves as a wake up call for dating sites which openly advertise about sex with minors. People making such requests could be nabbed and pushed behind bars. I will ensure that such cases are pursued till the logical end, even if it takes months or years to bring the culprit to book. If there needs to be a case registered against the dating site, shall look at that too,  that is only  if the administrators of the dating site don’t take action by disallowing/ banning posts that solicit sex with minors.

We cant stop child sexual abuse completely. But when we see something going awry, we could choose to do something about it. At least something more than simply intellectually masturbating about the issue, our first reaction should be to inform the police. Not be resigned about the issue and say “kuch nahi hoyega india ka”…. Or blame NGOs for it by saying “what is the use of so many NGOs when they cant keep a check on this”… let me ask you, if you are so damn concerned and your heart bleeds on seeing something like this happen – why don’t you fucking do something about it as a reflex action.

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