Colaba occult murder: Residents wary, clam up when asked about three-year-old's death

Updated: Sep 10, 2019, 07:58 IST | A correspondent | Mumbai

Community and family mourn in silence as wary neighbours clam up about Colaba child's death

Sangam Bhawan where Shanaya used to live with her family. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Sangam Bhawan where Shanaya used to live with her family. Pic/Suresh Karkera

An eerie silence gripped Colaba on Monday as a memorial meet was held in the evening for the three-year-old Shanaya Hathiramani, who was allegedly thrown off the seventh floor of Ashok Apartments, near Radio Club late Saturday evening. The local residents have been enveloped by grief and shock ever since.

Accused Anil Chugani, a resident of Ashok Apts, is in police custody. The Hathiramanis live on the first floor of Sangam Bhavan tucked away in a lane behind the old Strand cinema at Colaba and next to the telephone exchange in the area. The building has two wings. On Monday morning, a stream of visitors were seen entering the Hathiramanis flat to pay their condolences. The father of Shanaya, Prem Hathiramani and other family members refused to speak to the media beyond, "we have the police investigating the case, we have said what we want to earlier." The family claimed that they had just returned after immersing the ashes.

Baba Issardas hall where the prayer meeting for Shanaya Hathiramani was held on Monday in 1st Pasta Lane, Colaba
Baba Issardas hall where the prayer meeting for Shanaya Hathiramani was held on Monday in 1st Pasta Lane, Colaba

Manu Bhavnani of the Radio Club echoed the sentiments of the close-knit Colaba community when he said, "Lal Hathiramani, the children's grandfather, often brought the girls (twins) and their older brother to the Radio Club children's park to play. They are a well-known family in the vicinity. Colaba is shocked and saddened by this turn of events." There is little more than shock all around though. Wary locals claimed yesterday that they "do not know anything, and did not see anything."

A condolence prayer meet was held at the Baba Issardas Darbar at Pasta Lane 1 in Colaba on Monday evening. Accused Anil Chugani's lawyer advocate Sunil Pandey insisted that his client was, "mentally fit." He said that Chugani was "not unstable nor is he a psychopath." Pandey added, "The little girl has slipped and fallen. There is a burden on the police to prove this case and this is the story that is being given."

When Pandey was asked how a little girl can climb a high ledge herself, he shot back, saying, "Anybody can fall, even you and I can fall. Have you seen that room and window, it does not have a grill." When asked how a person can fall at a distance as if she were flung and not straight below the building, the advocate said, "This is a little girl and she was light in weight, she fell away from the building."

When Pandey was asked if his client did not have a job and practised black magic, he said, "Anil Chugani has relatives in Morocco and they send him money. There is also nothing like black magic and occult. This is a made-up story that has emerged over the weekend, now the burden of proof is on the police."

On whether Anil Chugani is married, Pandey said "yes" adding that "his wife is at her mother's home. I do not know where that is." Over why Chugani's wife had not visited the Ashok Apts home in the light of such a serious matter, Pandey said there may be, "a small dispute between them." The Hathiramani family was too shattered to speak but a family member did say over a phone call that the child could not have slipped. The girl's grandfather stated firmly, "Currently, we are not in a position to speak. The police are on the case."

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