Friday, March 21, 2014

‘Locality safer, but not enough’

Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: The neighborhood around Dhobi Ghat near Mahalaxmi railway station, home to most of the culprits, has tracked the gangrape cases closely. Most deemed ther conviction as “good riddance to habitual troublemakers”. At the same time, though, they said the area still teems with addicts and has not been sanitized by cops. Neighbours of prime accused Qasim Shaikh, though, accepted the verdict but also said that he should be pardoned. 

    Chand Bibi, Shaikh’s mother, who has been visiting her son at every hearing, was present in the courtroom when the judge pronounced her son as guilty. “Since its my son’s first crime, punish him, but give him a chance to reform.” A widow for 10 years, she stays with her three children in an Agripada slum. “I don’t have money to fight the case. I work as a house help.” 

    Meanwhile, her neighbours remembered Shaikh as a quiet
boy who did not harass girls in their area. “What he did elsewhere came as a shock to us,” said a woman in her late 40s. 

    A man said his mother never stopped him from mingling with drug addicts. “He is uneducated. Though he would not fight with people in the area, he fell into bad company,” he said.     Meanwhile, the family of Vijay Jadhav (19), another convict, moved out of their rented Virar flat around a month after his arrest. Jadhav stayed in Dhobi Ghat with his grandmother. 

    Convict Ashfaque Shaikh’s wife Nasreen said, “My husband is innocent. I don’t have resources to take this fight to the high court. After his arrest, I moved to my mother’s home in Mumbra as my neighbours ostracized us. My two kids have not gone to school since October. Everyday I travel from Mumbra to Byculla to do house work. How long can my mother keep me? I don’t know where to go.”
    (With inputs from Sandhya Nair and Rebecca Samervel)

The Times of India, March 21, 2014

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