A 30-year-old man was tied to a tree and thrashed, then paraded in his undergarments yesterday because locals, seized with misgivings about a spate of break-ins in the neighbourhood, suspected him to be a robber.
The barbaric incident did not take place in some remote country outback, but in central Mumbai suburbs of Bhandup-Mulund. Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik had to visit the area to pacify residents, despite being on leave.
Medieval remedy: The blameless victim, Guddu Kumar, was stripped,
pinned up against a tree, tethered, and assaulted by locals who took
him for a robber. Pics/Siddharth Dhadve
While the victim, Mira Road resident Guddu Kumar, has been hospitalised, locals now say that though he isn't a thief, he is mentally unstable.
Men cry wolf
MiD DAY had reported on January 24 that paranoid with rumors of robbers haunting the area, residents of Tembipada, Khindipada, Gamdevi Road, Maroda Hill, Milind Nagar, Tulsi Pada and Ganesh Nagar areas in Bhandup-Mulund area had formed their own squads to defend the locality, though the police reported only two cases of break-ins.
Already gripped with fear, when defensive residents of Khindipada, Dargah Road, found Kumar allegedly roving the streets in a suspicious manner on Thursday, they confronted him. When he was unable to provide 'satisfactory' answers to their queries, they tied him to a tree and beat him black and blue, eyewitnesses said. Finally, one of the residents called the police control room and the Mulund police intervened in and took the man to M T Agarwal Hospital in Mulund.
Arjun Mudugul of NGO Tarun Foundation said, "He was beaten up in the presence of the police. We wanted to intervene but we were afraid to interfere for fear of getting thrashed ourselves. We could only shoot a video." For their part, the residents justify their action citing a spate of robberies and break-ins.
"Since last Sunday there have been daily incidents of suspects running on rooftops. There have been two thefts in the area," said Ashok Sandu, belonging to a local residents' organisation Amar Mitra Mandal. "Unknown people have been running around with swords and axes. When we chase them, they manage to slip away; they have a jeep ready to make an escape," he added. Hence, the squads.
Another resident, Deepti Kavalekar, said, "The cops say that only a few complaints have been registered, but we are living under constant threat. Women fear to come out after 8 pm. We hear the thieves make noises in the night. The cops have finally agreed to give us two constables."
"We have admitted Guddu Kumar to M T Agarwal hospital. He is not a robber; we are inquiring into the case," said ACP Mahadeo Gundewadi (Mulund division). No case has been registered and no arrests have been made so far. Cops said they are waiting to record the victim's statement so they can book the locals involved in the brutal attack.
"Everybody right from Addl Commissioner Qaiser Khalid, DCP Sanjay Shintre to the staff of Mulund and Bhandup police stations is taking a serious note of the complaints. But the rise in robbery is just a fiction. Some say that somebody fuelled this rumor due to the upcoming polls," said a police officer, requesting anonymity.