Suspected to be mentally unstable, this man is often spotted lurking in Aarey Colony’s forests at night, when he steals water, clothes, utensils or anything that local residents leave outside; he carries sharp and dangerous items, with which he threatens anyone who dares to confront him
For the past few months, Aarey Milk Colony has been living in terror of this nighttime prowler who attacks anyone who crosses his path. No, it’s not a leopard that local residents are losing sleep over, but an unidentified man who skulks about Aarey’s forested patches with sharp and dangerous weapons, and helps himself to clothes, utensils, food or anything left outside by the locals. Suspected to be mentally unstable, the man charges at anyone who confronts him, and threatens locals with knives, broken glass bottles and metal rods.
Seen in this still from the camera trap footage, this man has been spotted lurking around Aarey Colony’s woods - wearing nothing but underpants and an open jacket, he steals from local residents and threatens them with sharp and dangerous weapons
Three days ago, he vandalised the New Zealand Hostel, breaking the windowpanes there so he could steal utensils and water. Taking note of the threat to residents’ lives, the Aarey CEO’s office will now inform the local police about the man, so he can be moved out of the forest and provided the necessary treatment.
A resident of Vanichapada, Chandu Jadhav recently returned home to find utensils, chairs and a few other items missing. He went in search of the culprit along with a group and encountered the man, who threatened them with a broken glass bottle but then ran away
Although the man has been spotted roaming in Aarey since the past six months, locals have begun to fear him in the past few months, ever since he shifted to a forested patch behind Vanichapada. Locals suspect he shifted because more people live there, and he found it easier to steal from them. Nothing is off limits for him, said locals, alleging that he not only steals clothes left to dry outside, but also demands food from them, threatening to hit them if they don’t comply.
“We understand that he is mentally disturbed, but around two months ago, he came to our pada and threatened a few people with dire consequences unless they gave him food. Once, he continued to kick the door of a local resident for almost 10 minutes after he was denied food,” said a resident of Unit 25 in Aarey.
Three days ago, he also struck the house of local resident Chandu Jadhav in Vanichapada, behind New Zealand Hostel, where he stole a few gallons of water and some utensils. Jadhav and his family were not home when this happened, but when they returned on Sunday to find the items missing, they went in search of the culprit. The found the man sitting in a nearby section of the woods. As soon as he spotted them, however, he pulled out a broken glass bottle and threatened them with it.
“We know that he is mentally unstable, so no one disturbs him, but few days ago, he came to our house and stole our chairs and utensils and a few other things. We went to the hillock where he can usually be found and he threatened us. Since we were in a large group, however, he eventually ran away. We got our things back, and also found a camera with him,” said Jadhav.
The camera Jadhav had found in the man’s stash was actually an infrared camera trap installed in Aarey by local researchers studying local wildlife movement. The camera had been stolen by the man nearly four months ago, and footage from this camera revealed a few glimpses of him walking around in the forest. While his face is not visible, he is clearly seen brandishing an iron rod, dressed in little else but his underpants and an open jacket.
Jadhav recalled another incident that took place about a fortnight ago, when the man had attacked a citizen in Aarey, hitting him on the head until the victim was forced to flee. A few days ago, he also threatened one of the morning walkers in the area. With his behaviour only getting more violent, locals, especially children and the elderly, are terrified of him.
Aarey Milk Colony CEO Gajanan Raut said, “We have received complaints about a person who appears to be mentally ill, who had vandalised the window panes of the New Zealand Hostel a few days ago. We don’t want people to live in fear; we will approach the Aarey police station about this, so the culprit is moved out of Aarey and shifted to a hospital where he can get treatment.”
Speaking to mid-day, DCP (Zone XII) M Ramkumar said, “I will immediately inform the Aarey police station of the matter, and we will see to it that the person is moved out of the area so that any untoward situation doesn’t arise. If anyone is threatening people, strict action will be taken as per the law.”
Risk to wildlife?
Researchers who have been studying wildlife in the area are of the opinion that there is great risk of the man encountering leopards known to frequent the area. Not only would this pose a threat to him, but he might also end up hurting the animals in the area, feared another local resident, Satish Lot. “There are regular sightings in our area, along with a variety of birds and other wildlife. This person can be dangerous not only for humans, but also for the wild animals here.”