Mumbai: Neighbours pitch in with cash to release family held hostage in Aarey
Grocer's wife was held at knifepoint in their home in Aarey while robbers demanded Rs 10,000
Frustrated at not being able to net victims on the highway, three desperate robbers targetted a home in Aarey instead. In the wee hours of Saturday, they barged into the home of a grocery shop owner, held his wife at razor point and left only after he was able to collect Rs 2,000 from his neighbours.
The accused, David Charles Anthony Kondar alias Pappu 25, Rafique Ansari, 23, and Sarshi Goregaonkar, 22, pushed their way into the house of Pravin Sawant, 44, at Aarey, grabbed his wife, Vidya, and held a razor to her throat after realising there was nothing to steal in their house. The accused even threatened to kill their two teenaged children who were asleep.
"I was lying down after dinner, around 1.30 am when I heard a knock. Through the peephole I saw a woman outside. She told me to open the door as she had something urgent to tell me. I refused to but she kept insisting. But, thinking the woman must be in distress, my wife opened the door," said Sawant.
As soon as Vidya, 42, who works as a security guard, opened the door, the woman barged into the house followed by Kondar and Ansari. The woman, who was later identified as Sarshi, informed Sawant that she was in urgent need of Rs 10,000 and that if they did not give them the money they would kill Vidya and the children. "I pleaded with them to let us go as we had no money. I had just Rs 200 at that point," Sawant said.
David Kondar, alias Pappu
Not knowing what to do, Sawant told them he would go out and get the money. "My neighbours turned out to be my saviours. They are as poor as us. Many of them work as maids in nearby colonies. I woke them up in the middle of the night and told them about Vidya being held hostage and around seven to eight of them readily gave whatever money they could. I collected R2,000 in no time," Sawant said.
He raced back home and gave the cash to the accused who at first refused to settle for R2,000. They left only after Sawant told them he would arrange for the rest of the money soon. According to the Dindoshi police, the accused who usually operate on the highways, were unable to find any targets and hence moved into Aarey. The area is a bit cut off and the police response time here is much longer.
Pravin Sawant and his wife Vidya. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Just minutes after robbing Sawant, around 1.45 am, the three accosted a real estate agent, Mangesh Jadhav, travelling in an auto, snatched his gold chain and mobile phone worth R1lakh after attacking him with the razor and fled. Jadhav who was injured in the incident was rushed to the hospital and later informed the Dindoshi police. The Dindoshi police caught David and Ansari in the wee hours of Saturday while Sarshi Goregaonkar was caught on Sunday. The stolen property was recovered from them.
The police said all three accused are habitual criminals. The modus operandi is the woman would first stop the autos and cabs, request a lift and then start arguing with the driver or passenger accusing one of them of molestation. While she argued, David and Ansari would arrive at the spot and attack the driver or passenger, a police officer said.
Sawant's neighbours in Aarey who gave him the money. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
A 25-year-old neighbour who helped Sawant, said, "When he told me that robbers had a knife to Vidya's neck, I gave him the Rs 200. It was all I had. I then accompanied him to his house and reasoned with the robbers until they let Vidya go." Another neighbour said, "I earn Rs 75 a day. When Sawant came to ask me for money and told me why I immediately gave him Rs 100 and skipped breakfast the next morning." Yet another woman said, "I gave him Rs 500. Robbers here have become a huge problem. I was robbed of a gold ring during Dussehra."
Vicky Kondle, 30, a driver, said, "Everyone was scared. I took them to the police station to file a case. Local goons who are into drugs always create trouble for us. In fact, they even attacked me once and when I retaliated, I landed in jail for six months." Shantaram Bangar, 45, a social activist said, "When I came to know about the incident I spoke to the senior police officers. These areas in Aarey require special attention from the local police."
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