The Murder of Keenan Santos
For those with our typical ADHD attention spans, here's what happened. On 23rd October 2011, group of cricket fans came together to enjoy a match on a big screen, have dinner at Amboli Kitchen and Bar, eat pan and have fun. What followed didn't quite work out that way.
Dinner done, as they were at the paan shop, a drunk man stumbled against one of the girls. Thinking that this is your average garden variety drunk, one of the men in the group, Avinash Bali, slapped him. Got into a verbal spat, another friend, Reuben Fernandes, hit him too. However, this was no garden variety drunk lecher (which are kind of common on streets). This man had two murder cases pending against him, and he was a barber and roaming around scot free.
He was accompanied by a few other men. Angry and wanting revenge, he swore he'd be back, and the group dismissed him. Shaken over what happened, but not expecting trouble, they continued to stand there. Meanwhile, said man returned with a group of people in three rickshaws - thirteen, many said - and his original companions. They were armed with swords and knives. Keenan and Reuben tried to reason with them while the others got the girls out of the way to safety. Keenan Santos was stabbed viciously, and his intestines spilled out. As Bejnamin tried to get the girls into the restaurant, some of the thugs followed them. Reuben Fernandes got in their way and was viciously stabbed too. As onlookers watched in shock, Avinash Bali hurled a nearby ladder at them and pulled Keenan and Reuben into the restaurant. The thugs did not follow them into the restaurant, and left.
Still without assistance, Avinash and Benjamin struggled to get Keenan and Reuben to the hospital on time. Many excuses were heard in the media, but the bottom line is, onlookers DID NOT HELP. Keenan's girlfriend informed his parents, who arrived just in time to watch him die 20 minutes after being admitted. A week later, Reuben is still fighting for life. One life lost, one life hanging on by a thread. Because a crazy drunk didn't see anything wrong in molesting a woman or to attack her friends for defending her. The first thought that came to my mind was if I would ever want my friends to come to my rescue if it would mean them paying with their lives. Then I wondered, what kind of a world would it be, if we can't count on each other to help...
The Arrests of Rana & Co
In other news, the police investigated, etc and arrested four people - Rana, and the three others who were with him. Despite witness statements and CCTV footage, it seems the thirteen odd goons who landed up with swords and knives did not exist. Rana & Co were cocksure on arrest and confident that they would be out within months and said so openly.
The murder weapon was found at Rana's home in Valmiki Nagar in the presence of two witnesses whose statements are on record, the friends witnessed Rana stabbing him, Rana's own companions say Rana stabbed Keenan. Rana says he didn't do it. He says it was someone else. These are the messages coming in through chatter from those doing the rounds of police stations.
And of course, everyone has forgotten about the thriteen odd rent-a-goons complete with professional equipment that landed up within 10 minutes of Rana's threat of returning. Who were they? Why did they never come into the picture with the cops in spite of the presence of video footage?
Politicians getting involved
In still other news, politicians were quick to step into the limelight. They visited Keenan's and Reuben's families, made appropriate noises, and then - pay attention - visited Valmiki Nagar to assure that the killers families that they would get justice. Ashok Bhau Jadhav Congress MLA from Andheri W is said to be sponsoring the killers lawyers.
One would think that with the assailants being migrants, MNS would at least condemn them, but apparently not. An article in DNA quotes Jassi Singh, a local from Valimiki Nagar “So far, political activists and leaders from Congress, Shiv Sena and MNS have visited our area”.
Reuben, in the meanwhile has been struggling to recover. He is still in the ICCU and has undergone surgery to repair damage and minimize internal bleeding. Sedated, high on pain killers, he drifts in and out of consciousness, barely getting a grip on all the chaos that has unfolded. He did not know about Keenan's death until last night. Here is what happened.
Last night, policemen forced their way into - pay attention - the ICCU to interrogate Reuben. Drifting in and out of consciousness, still in critical condition, weak... he overheard something of Keenan's death from them. He was agitated all night and concerned about Keenan and his internal bleeding resumed, and as I write this post, he has been taken to emergency surgery again in a bid to save his life.
A call has gone out requesting for blood type O+ for him tomorrow.
An important question to ask here is what did the cops hope to hear from him that they forced their way into an ICCU? Did they have a warrant? What authority did they have to do this at all?
Reuben passes away
Reuben passed away on the 31st October after battling for life for a week.
Why are politicians so concerned about these killers? The answer is in upcoming elections. Valmiki Nagar is a vote bank. The goons rule it. The assumption is that favors done to them will reap political profit. And it can't even actually be any favor to the people of the area, because with these goons having such violent power, they can't be safe either. Who stands to profit then?
Why did the cops not arrest the other goons who arrived later for the sole purpose of attack? It can't be that impossible to find them - they came in rickshaws!
Why was a man with two murder cases against him not only roaming free and killing one more man (possibly two) but also confident that he would be out free in a few months? Why was an MP rushing to provide him with a lawyer within a day?
Why did no one among the bystanders come to the aid of the victims? Can understand shock and fear during the fight, but why not help get them to hospital?
What options do we have, as citizens to create reasonable safety for us?
Most importantly, what do you do if you get molested, or see someone getting molested by a random person on the street?