Preethi Rathi, who was attacked with acid at the Bandra Terminus earlier this month, is waiting for her assailant to be behind bars - but chances are she may have to wait for long. Preethi’s family say that the CCTV footage of the incident shows the accused cleaning acid from his face while he flees the spot, after committing the crime, clutching what looks like a bottle in his left hand. The railway police however, say that the accused they arrested for the crime showed no signs of acid injury on his face.
“The CCTV footage that I was shown by the railway police clearly shows that the man’s shirt has a few holes in it, which means he was also hurt. Drops of acid also fell on his face - I saw this with my own eyes, and later in the footage,” said Vinod Dahiya, Preethi’s uncle, who was with her at the time of attack.
On May 10, an official of the Government Railway Police arrested Pawankumar Azad Singh Gagalon from New Delhi. Gagalon is now in Byculla lock-up, as the accused in the case. However, Preethi’s family now claims that they caught the wrong man, because the assailant was sure to have signs of acid injury on his face or body.
The CCTV footage shows the assailant running on platform two, after flinging acid on Rathi. He removes the handkerchief that he had used to mask his face, and cleans his face. He also carries what appears to be a bottle. “The quality of the footage is very bad and it’s very difficult for us to get a clear picture of the man. He is in the frame only for around 5-10 seconds,” said a senior GRP official.
At the time of the acid attack, a coolie who was next to Preethi and sustained injuries ran after the accused, but soon lost him. “The family didn’t scream, so not many passengers came to know about the incident. We suspect that he jumped onto one of the trains in the opposite platform that was ready for departure,” said an RPF official on condition of anonymity.
D B Sidam, assistant commissioner of police, GRP, said, “We have arrested the accused and we are investigating the matter further. We have not found any acid injuries on his body or face.” On May 2, Preethi, along with her father Amar Singh (55), her uncle Vinod Kumar Dahiya, and her aunt Sunita, alighted from the Delhi-Bandra Garib Rath train at platform three, when she was attacked. The BSc graduate had arrived in the city to join INHS Asvini Hospital as a nursing lieutenant.
Victim’s condition critical, lungs not functioning properly
Preethi’s condition has continued to worsen in the last few days, as she continues to struggle at Bombay Hospital. Doctors say her condition has become critical, after she contracted pneumonia owing to liquid that had accumulated in her lungs. “A minor surgery was earlier conducted on Preethi to create a hole in her abdomen, through which a feeding tube was inserted,” said Dr Sagar Sakle, spokesperson of Bombay Hospital. He added, “However, as her lungs aren’t functioning properly, we have attached two machines to provide oxygen to her lungs and heart, as there is no gas exchange between her left and right lung.” Meanwhile, her relatives are fuming over the fact that doctors at Masina Hospital did not inform them of her deteriorating condition. “We had no idea that her lungs were in such a poor condition owing to which the infection began to spread. She has now been shifted to another hospital and we hope her condition starts to improve,” said Vinod Dahiya, the victim’s uncle. Preethi was shifted to Bombay hospital on Saturday after a gastroscopy conducted at Masina hospital revealed that a hole was formed between her wind and foodpipe, which led to an infection in her chest.