Theirs is a chilling tale of crime and punishment. Only, the punishment was meted out not by law enforcement agencies but by the enraged women themselves. Nearly 200 of them marched into the courtroom of a magistrate on the afternoon of Friday the 13th and lynched their tormentor Akku Yadav to death with knives and stones. Yadav had 24 cases of assault, dacoity, murder, molestation and extortion against him, he had been arrested 12 times in as many years but had managed to secure bail on each occasion. He was subsequently externed from Kasturba Nagar in January this year but he moved freely till a week back. Yadav was in court for one of the cases that day but the women had decided he would never return to their basti. "We freed ourselves and our daughters that day. We also freed our men," says a rather demure Pinky Shambarkar.
She, along with four other women, was arrested by the police within hours of the courtroom murder and spent five days in police custody, strangely happy and breathing free for the first time in many years. But hundreds of other women wouldn't have it this way. Still bound together, they filed for bail for five of their 'sisters'. The groundswell of support to the women was unparalleled—130 lawyers in the city pledged their services to the cause, support came in from women's organisations across the political spectrum, a retired high court judge spoke up, and National Commission for Women chief Poornima Advani said the Kasturba Nagar women had no choice because the police had proved helpless in containing Yadav's reign of terror. Despite this, when bail seemed a distant possibility, the women threatened mass surrender to collectively face the murder charge. On Wednesday, some 150 of them marched to the court, ironically where Yadav had been lynched, in solidarity with the five accused—and to surrender if the magistrate refused bail.