Ahmedabad: The Naliya (in Gujarat's Kutch district) sex racket not only exposed the ordeal of the woman who was subjected to sexual exploitation for several months, but also puts the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is looking to retain power in Gujarat in a year, in a fix. Four of the nine accused named in the FIR were local BJP leaders and were suspended from the party.
In August 2015, the woman came to her mother’s house at Kothara in Kutch from Mumbai, where she was staying with her husband. She was looking for a job and her mother sought help from one Bababhai, who owned a mobile shop in Naliya town. He reportedly assured the family that he would help the woman find a job within a couple of days. He also introduced her to LPG vendor Shantilal Solanki. Solanki offered her a job at Rs 5,500 per month.
According to the complaint, she was first raped by three persons, allegedly including Shantil Solanki at his house. She said she had gone to his house to get a salary advance when her cold drink was spiked. In the subsequent months, the woman was allegedly raped in hotels, in moving cars and at houses of other accused.
The BJP swung into damage control mode after the names of its office bearers cropped up in the complaint. The party immediately suspended four of the nine accused who were its office bearers. Party leaders hurriedly called a press conference to declare that they had been booted out of the party.
While Shantilal Solanki was the Abdasa taluka president of the BJP Baxi Panch, Govind Parumalani and Ajit Ramvani are BJP councillors in the Gandhidham municipality and Vasant Bhanushali is a BJP worker.
“We have promptly suspended the BJP workers whose names have figured in the FIR. The party very strongly condemns the incident and the guilty should be handed down the strictest possible punishment,” said BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya. State minister Pradipsinh Jadeja said that a high-level SIT has been asked to carry out an investigation.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties – Congress and AAP – have alleged that many more accused are involved and the BJP is trying to “sweep the matter under the carpet”. The Opposition has sought an independent probe by a retired High Court judge, a demand that has not been accepted by the state government.