On hills, staying safe a challenge

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The increasing instances of robberies, attacks, eve-teasing and even blackmailing on the hills around Pune has alarmed citizens who frequent them for outings, morning and evening walks. Though police claim that they have taken steps to curb these crimes, they admit to the "limitations".

Several residential areas in Pune are situated around the hills — Kothrud, Warje, Pashan, Bavdhan, Baner, Hadapsar, Yerawada, Parvati in PMC areas and Nigdi in Pimpri-Chinchwad. While sporadic incidents were reported earlier, too, in the past two-three years crime has increased on the hills.

A senior officer with Pune police's crime branch said more then 50 incidents had been reported from across the hilly areas in the last two years. Most of these are reported from Vetal Tekdi, one the largest tracts in the city spread from Chatuhshrungi temple to Chandni Chowk and from Pashan to Paud Road.

Subhash Nikam, inspector (crime) with Chatuhshrungi police station, said, "There have been incidences of robberies on the hills in our jurisdiction. We have started regular patrolling in the area. We also ask people to stay away from the hills after 7 pm. We carry out surprise checks."

A constable said, "There have been incidences of people from nearby slum areas troubling and even blackmailing couples who visit these hills. These couples do not file complaints as they are afraid their family members would come to know."

Last year, the Pune police crime branch arrested history-sheeter Somnath Shankar Dhotre (30), from Wadarwadi. Inspector Satish Govekar, who arrested him, said, "Dhotre's gang was involved in over 70 cases of robberies on the hills such as Hanuman Tekdi, Law College Road hill, ARAI hill and hilly areas around Chandni Chowk. They have been targeting people who choose to walk off the regular routes on these hills. The gang operated in groups of two-three persons."

City Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol told Newsline, "We have limitations on how much of the area on the hills can we cover. Patrolling and surveillance can only be done on the main tracts on the hills. We feel that citizens have to be more careful when they choose to go on the hills. People should go in groups. Avoid timings when there is no one on the hills like the night time and afternoons."

Officers with Chatuh-shrungi, Warje and Kothrud police station said they have come across incidences in which women were assaulted, teased or even molested on these hills. "Many of these incidences do not get reported to us. We come to know through residents." Pol added, "We urge people to approach nearest police station and call the police control room in case of any such incidences."

'Youth threatened to rape me'

In a horrifying incident on a hill near Chatuhshrungi temple, a middle-aged woman was assaulted around 4 pm on November 7.

The unidentified attacker who had covered his face told her that he would rape her, but managed to escape as she kept talking to him and persuaded him not to harm her.

The woman said, "I have been going to the hill for walks for many years. It had become a part of my routine. I had been going there alone too. After an uphill tract, there is a plateau. As I reached up there, a man came from my left side and tightly held my hand."

She recalls, "He threatened to rape me and told me not to raise an alarm. He was in his 20s — I could figure that out though he had covered his face. I told him about a family member of his age. He took out a knife said he would harm me. But I told him by killing me he would destroy a family." She added, "He pushed me but let me go. Though my leg was hurt, I fled the area and finally met an elderly person who had come for a walk."

The woman had chosen not to file a police complaint.

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