A 25-year old girl on her maiden visit to the city was brutally attacked by a 27 year-old man, who boarded the same train as hers, followed her all the way to the city, and flung acid at her face as soon as she alighted from the train at Bandra terminus yesterday.
Preeti Rathi had arrived in Mumbai to report for her first job as a nurse in Ashwini Hospital in Colaba. It is suspected that the assailant was a jilted lover bent on revenge. According to police, the victim boarded the G3 compartment of Gareeb Rath from Delhi. The accused boarded the same train.
At four stations along the way in Vadodara, Surat, Navsari and Kota, he attempted to attack Preeti, but his plans were foiled, as she did not dismount from her bogey to purchase anything.
Soon after Preeti alighted from the train with her kin at 8.15 am yesterday, a man, his face masked with a handkerchief, tapped on her shoulder from behind on the crowded platform. As soon as Preeti turned around, the assailant flung acid at her face. The chemical entered her mouth, severely damaging her wind and food pipes and blinding her right eye.
“Preeti sustained 20 per cent deep burns on her arms, chest and face. She has lost sight in her right eye,” said revealed Dr Rohinton Dastur, medical director of Byculla’s Masina Hospital where the victim is undergoing treatment in ICU. He added, “Her wind and food pipes were damaged because she accidentally swallowed some of the acid. “A tracheotomy was performed as she was having difficulty breathing.
Friend turned foe?
Preeti was accompanied by family members including her father, uncle and aunt. While the Bandra GRP officers suspect that the attacker was acquainted with Preeti, the family members have been unwilling to confirm the same.
According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Bansidhar Shirsaath, the incident occurred soon after the train rolled into platform three of the Bandra terminus. “After attacking the woman, the accused fled from the spot, but we have made sketches, which will help us nab him. Statements from the victim’s family members indicate that they know attacker.”
Four others, including three family members, were also singed by the acid, as they were standing next to Preeti when she was attacked her father Amarsingh Rathi (57), her aunt Sunita Dahiya (38) received treatment at the OPD department of Masina Hospital.
Sudesh Dipendra (23), a co-passenger who was standing on the platform at the time, sustained 10 per cent superficial burns on her left hand and thigh. Samir Shaikh (22), loader, sustained five per cent burns on both his hands and his left shoulder. They received treatment at Bhabha hospital in Bandra.
An eyewitness said, “A youth in his 20s threw acid at the girl’s face; he was wearing a yellow T-shirt and blue denims. He ran towards the local platform. No police constable or GRP guards were present during the incident and the accused managed to flee after committing the crime.
On the lookout
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Bandra GRP, DB Sidam, said, “We have formed four teams to nab the culprit. We have some clues and he will be apprehended soon. We have registered a case under Section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt) and 307 (attempt to murder) and other sections of the IPC, including the Railway Act.
Preeti was to join Asvini Hospital on Thursday afternoon. “She had worked so hard for the exams and got selected among many other candidates. We thought she would be able to start a better life in Mumbai,” lamented Amarsingh Rathi, Preeti’s father, addind, “I’m unable to understand why anyone would want to attack her as she did not have any stalker or boyfriend back home. Everything happened so suddenly that we were unable to take a good look at the man, who immediately fled from the scene.” Preeti hails from Balawas district in Haryana. She has a Master of Science (MSc) degree from a reputed medical college in Delhi.