The chill­ing mur­der of two young men in Mum­bai has led to an in­tense cam­paign for jus­tice and a fierce de­mand to re­claim the city for its res­i­dents

India Today - - NATION - By Ki­ran Tare

They watched from safe spots. They watched from be­hind shop shut­ters. But no one came for­ward to protest, con­front or re­sist. A mob of goons knifed two young men—keenan San­tos, 24, and Reuben Fer­nan­des, 29—on the evening of Oc­to­ber 20 along a crowded lane in And­heri, Mum­bai. Their of­fence? Speak­ing up for three girls, their friends, who were be­ing ha­rassed and mo­lested.

A fort­night on, pub­lic anger has boiled over. Max­i­mum City is reel­ing un­der protest. The chill­ing dis­play of gang­ster atroc­ity has led to an in­tense cam­paign for jus­tice and a fierce de­mand to re­claim the city for its res­i­dents. With a record 31,256 In­ter­net users build­ing up a huge net­work of protest, there is new hope for a city that has long been un­der siege, from within and with­out.

On that fate­ful night, a band of seven friends had gath­ered at the swanky Amboli Kitchen and Bar. They watched the Eng­land vs In­dia ODI se­ries on a gi­ant screen, cheered Team In­dia with gusto and around 11 p.m. ap­proached a paan shop to end the evening on a sweet note. It was here that a drunken man, Ji­ten­der Rana, a 25-year-old barber with two mur­der charges in his name, lurched against one of the girls in the group. Not just that. He also made lewd com­ments and ges­tures at other girls in the group.

Af­ter a bout of ver­bal spar­ring, Rana left threat­en­ing to re­turn for re­venge. He came back min­utes later with four part­ners in crime and a clutch of knives, chop­pers, blades and sick­les. No rea­son­ing worked with the men de­ter­mined to set­tle a score. They stabbed San­tos and Fer­nan­des, who strug­gled to pro­tect the girls. San­tos died a few hours later. Fer­nan­des suc­cumbed to in­juries on Novem­ber 1.

Shock has now given way to shame. Anger and an­guish are gath­er­ing mo­men­tum on the In­ter­net. “Call it eveteas­ing, call it street ha­rass­ment or just talk about Slut Walk. I am adding my voice to this cry,” Mohnish Moorjani and Nan­dita Khan have


posted on a Face­book page, ‘Keenan San­tos’. Voices from across the coun­try and con­ti­nents have joined in the cho­rus. Hardik Mha­tre, a sym­pa­thiser from Toronto, Canada, writes, “Ashamed of my city for some­thing like this… (T)ake a vow for not let­ting any sit­u­a­tion like this re­peat again.”

Blog­gers are urg­ing peo­ple to fight sex­ual ha­rass­ment and crime on Mum­bai streets. A blog post on Hol­laback says: “It’s im­por­tant that we keep Keenan’s re­silient spirit alive by con­tin­u­ing to take a stand against ha­rass­ment. Keenan would tell one needs courage to fight. Let us lis­ten to Keenan.” San­tos’s friends are plan­ning to stage a can­dlelit vigil and gath­er­ing sup­port­ers to join them. A mes­sage call­ing for the march reads: “This is some­thing that I feel must be es­ca­lated to the level of the Jes­sica Lal case... for a speedy trial and judg­ment con­vict­ing those who have com­mit­ted the crime so frivolously.”

“Why should some­body stab a friend, or any­body, be­cause he stood up for his friends, for what is right,” asks Querida Fer­nan­des, San­tos’s friend. She raises the vi­tal ques­tions that haunts ev­ery cit­i­zen in the city now: “Do we all have to keep quiet ev­ery time some­body makes a com­ment on us girls? Do we not have the

right to walk on the road at 10.30 in the night or stop out­side a restau­rant to chat with friends or even go out for a cof­fee? Do we all have to now ask our friends and fam­ily to just shut up ev­ery time some­one says some­thing to us be­cause maybe, just maybe, two min­utes later they may re­turn to stab us for no fault of ours?” She ap­peals, “Please help us put an end to this.”

The po­lice have now ar­rested four peo­ple. But that hardly con­soles the fam­ily of the de­ceased. Fer­nan­des’s brother, Ben­jamin, re­counts the po­lice’s “in­sen­si­tiv­ity”. “Four of them barged into the In­ten­sive Care Unit at 1 a.m. and tried to wake up Reuben de­spite know­ing he was crit­i­cally in­jured, drift­ing in and out of con­scious­ness,” he says.

Eye­wit­ness ac­counts of the valiant strug­gle the Mum­bai boys had put up that night are now do­ing the rounds. Some say that the boys were sur­rounded from all sides but fought bravely till the bit­ter end. “San­tos bat­tled on even af­ter his gut spilled out while Fer­nan­des fought till he man­aged to get his friend to a se­cure place,” re­ports an­other. Their steely re­solve, it is be­ing said, scared the goons into beat­ing a re­treat.

But a cru­cial ques­tion re­mains unan­swered: why didn’t a sin­gle by­stander come for­ward that night to lend a hand even af­ter the ruf­fi­ans had left?



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