Salman verdict doesn't affect me. My leg is still not okay, says victim
While Bollywood may have rallied around actor Salman Khan, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the victims, however, continue to wage a lonely battle.
Abdullah Rauf Shaikh says he cannot work for more than three hours at a stretch because of the injury to his right leg. Pic/Satyajit Desai
Abdullah Rauf Shaikh (36), one of the five pavement dwellers over whom Khan drove his Toyota Land Cruiser, isn’t too overjoyed by the judgement since his leg is still bearing the brunt of that fateful night. Shaikh told mid-day that, since the accident, he is unable to work at a stretch because of his leg injury and that the court verdict was not going to make this better.
“He should be punished for his deeds, as I have lost my friend Nurullah. All four of us are going through physical problems after the incident. We should be compensated for our future as he (Salman Khan) is responsible for it,” he said. However, Shaikh expressed his surprise at the judgement. “I thought the day would never come. He is a big man and this is a 12-year-old matter.”
Shaikh came to Mumbai when he was 12 years old to earn a living. At the time of the incident, he had already worked there for 10 years. He, Nurullah Mehboob Sharif, Mannu Khan, Mohammed Kalim Pathan and Muslim Shaikh were sleeping on the footpath outside American Bakery on Hill Road, Bandra, on the night of September 28, 2002.
Recalling that night, he said, “Between 2 am and 3 am, we heard a loud noise and woke up to see a car over us. People were shouting “Salman Khan ne accident kiya” and, after some time Salman went away in a rickshaw. We didn’t know what was happening because we were in deep pain. All of us were crying. Nurullah had the most injuries.
“We were taken to Bhabha Hospital. Some time after being admitted, we got to know Nurullah was no more. Muslim Shaikh and I had some serious injuries, while Mannu and Mohammed had minor injuries and were discharged soon. My right leg was badly injured. I was in the Bhabha Hospital for two months and then went to my village in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh,” Shaikh told mid-day.
The injured Shaikh, who was the sole breadwinner of his family, spent his life’s savings on his treatment, which continued for another three months. The only other source of income was farming and he had to take on a substantial amount of debt to feed his wife and five children.
Shaikh returned to Bandra some months later and joined another bakery near Bandra railway station, and has been working there ever since. But life hasn’t been the same. “I work for two-three months and then take one month’s rest. Even on a daily basis, I can only work 2-3 hours at a stretch. I can’t stand continuously,” he said.
Though the bakery owner and his co-workers have been supportive, Shaikh fears his physical condition won’t allow him to work beyond a few years. “Who will take care of my family then? I need to get my kids married. We should be given more compensation,” he said.
Shaikh claimed he got Rs 3 lakh in compensation in 2007, of which Rs 1.20 lakh were spent on lawyers’ fees. He was left with Rs 1.80 lakh, which was spent on medicines and repaying loans. He also added that nobody approached him for any bribes or settlements or forced him to change his statements. Meanwhile, Khan has been granted interim bail till Friday, and the High Court will hear his case on the same day.
Not in touch with others
Abdullah Rauf Shaikh also said he has not been in touch with the other victims of the accident. After the incident, Shaikh said, most of them returned to their native villages.
“We only met twice after the accident: once when the police called us, and once last year when our statements were recorded at the Sessions court. Apart from this, I don’t know where they are.
I am busy with my work and they, with theirs. All I know is that Mannu Khan and Muslim Shaikh are in Gonda (Uttar Pradesh) and Mohammad Kalim Pathan is in Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh),” he said.
John Francis Fernandes, the key eyewitness in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case, hopes the actor is granted relief from the court. Fernandes was the main eyewitness who saw Khan at the spot.
John Francis Fernandes
Fernandes said, “On September 29, 2002 I was inside my house, which is at the accident spot. At around 2.25 am I immediately rushed out after I heard a loud noise. I was only wearing shorts and I saw that a car had gone over a few people present at the spot.” According to Fernandes, 10 minutes after the accident Arbaaz Khan, the star’s brother, arrived at the spot and both of them left immediately.
“After the duo left, the injured were taken to Bhabha Hospital in an auto rickshaw and a mob had gathered around the spot,” Fernandes recalled. However, he added, “Even if Salman has committed a crime, he should be granted relief looking at the (charitable) donations he makes. He has been helping the poor for so long. He should be acquitted.”