Photojournalist Gang-Raped in Mumbai

Mumbai Police
Mumbai police released a sketch of the five alleged rapists.

Outrage is again sweeping India and Bollywood, following the gang-rape of a 22-year-old journalist by five men in a desolated factory where she was doing a magazine photo shoot.

NEW DELHI – A 22-year-old photojournalist was gang-raped in Mumbai by five men on Thursday evening according to local reports. The woman was doing a photo shoot for a magazine -- accompanied by a male colleague -- at the dilapidated and isolated Shakti Mills compound in south Mumbai. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors said her condition is stable.

By Friday morning -- as local and international TV networks went into overdrive covering the crime -- reports said that Mumbai police claim they have arrested five suspects based on the victim's testimony. She even named two of the attackers, Rupesh and Sajid, as they called each other by name.

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The crime appears chillingly similar to the horrific gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student last December in Delhi. That victim was also with a male friend when the duo boarded a bus where five men brutally attacked them. Thirteen days later, the woman died in a Singapore hospital where she was rushed for medical treatment. The incident sparked national outrage leading to massive, and sometimes violent, protests against the government and police. With all suspects in custody -- one of them allegedly committed suicide in prison -- the case is currently being heard in court.

According to reports, the statements of the Mumbai victims described how two men accosted the woman, beat up and tied her colleague with a belt and then dragged her into an abandoned building -- three other men joined them and gang-raped the young woman. The attackers then fled the scene. The woman and her colleague managed to take a rickshaw and reached the Jaslok hospital three miles away where doctors called in the police.
Expectedly, the incident has again sparked outrage among prominent Indian figures, who have hit social media to vent their anger. “Sad validation of the fact, that NO city in India is safe for women. It is after all the same prevention/enforcement mechanism in use all over,” actress Gul Panag posted on her Twitter account.

“I'm appalled!," tweeted actress Sonam Kapoor while veteran actor Anupam Kher (Silver Linings Playbook) posted on his account, “Moral Bankruptcy is Worse than Financial Bankruptcy. And we are heading towards BOTH. Shameful and Sad."

“Yeh mera India ("This is my India"). Yeh meri Mumbai. ("This is my Mumbai"). Another gang-rape. One more victim. Just another day in our great nation,” tweeted author Shobhaa De.

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“Women photographers will be asked to never do a night shoot again, or even better, don't ever become a photographer or a journalist, because first “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING BEING A WOMAN AT ALL” ... I am not sure I could survive the injustice done a hundred times over, by the rapists, and then by my people, and then by my own government,” Mumbai-based photographer Anusha Yadav, who also runs the online Indian Memory Project, posted on her Facebook page.

Given that Mumbai has always been considered relatively safer for women compared to other cities -- especially Delhi -- the incident has sent shockwaves through society, where many believed such a crime could never happen there.

“This city for me is never going to be the same again. Shocked. Disgusted. Disappointed,” tweeted producer Guneet Monga, who was included in THR's 2012 International Women in Entertainment feature.

Meanwhile, India's image as a country unsafe for women took another battering as an article posted last week on CNN iReport went viral titled “India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear.”

The story -- which has racked up over 800,000 page views -- was posted by Michaela Cross (under the username RoseChasm), an American student at the University of Chicago, who shared an account of her study trip to India in 2012, during which she says she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse. Upon her return, the South Asian studies major said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is now on a mental leave of absence from the school after a public breakdown in the spring.

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“When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for 45 minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?,” Cross wrote in the piece's introduction. “How, I ask, was I supposed to tell these stories at a Christmas party? But how could I talk about anything else when the image of the smiling man who masturbated at me on a bus was more real to me than my friends, my family or our Christmas tree?”

Meanwhile, a photography exhibition will be held in Delhi from Aug. 24-31 featuring pictures from an online photo essay by photographer Chandan Gomes on the massive protests that shook Delhi in the aftermath of last December's fatal gang-rape. 

“I am not documenting this movement as a photojournalist/documentary photographer but as a protestor who spent his Christmas and New Year out on the streets raising his voice for justice, equality and freedom,” writes Gomes in his accompanying note for the photo essay.