It has been a long wait for Valerian Santos.
On 20 October, 2011, Keenan Santos, Valerian Santos' son, and Reuben Fernandez were hanging out with their friends in a restaurant in Amboli. When they stepped out of the restaurant, a group of drunk men started harassing the girls in their group. Keenan and Reuben jumped to their defence.
Keenan's girlfriend Priyanka Fernandez, who was a witness to the horror that followed, had later told NDTV that the goons came back armed and repeatedly stabbed Reuben and Keenan. Many eyewitnesses were around, but no one came to their rescue. Priyanka kept calling the cops as Keenan and Reuben battled for their lives, but no one answered her calls.
While Keenan died on the same day, Reuben succumbed to his injuries 10 days later.
Five years on, Valerian Santos is still waiting for justice. The verdict on the case was initially expected on Monday, but later postponed to 5 May. He has been posting updates on the case on a Facebook public group called Keenan Santos. On Sunday, he posted, "Humbly with folded hands I ask you all to keep on praying for the verdict so as to get justice for our bravehearts Keenan and Reuben."
The accused — Jitesha Rana, Sunil Bodh, Satish Dulhaj and Dipak Tival, were arrested the next day and have been in jail since then. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told The Times Of India, there are 28 witnesses in the case and there is direct evidence showing that the accused were molesting the girls. "It was premeditated murder," said Nikam.
The grieving father had expressed his disappointment with the court proceedings as hearings were postponed on numerous occasions. He had told DNA that there were instances when none of the defence lawyers were present in court and at times, the accused were not brought to court. Valerian Santos has even received threats from the relatives of the accused. Despite the public outrage, social media activism and assurances from the then Maharashtra government, the charges were filed only a year after the incident and was shifted to a fast-track court. It was later shifted to a woman's court as of the complainants had pointed out that many of the witnesses in the case were women.
Valerian Santos told The Times Of India that like his son, he will fight against sexual harassment. He hopes that the judgement will be a lesson to all those who think they will get away with molesting women on the street.
On Monday, Valerian said that all he wants is a judgement, not capital punishment, but nothing less than life imprisonment.
All that I want is a good judgment, nothing less than life imprisonment until death: Keenan’s father Valerian Santos pic.twitter.com/SJxnH3bAMB
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 2, 2016
I would not ask for capital punishment because I know it's not rarest of rare case (Keenan-Reuben murder), I understand law: Valerian Santos
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 2, 2016
Aditya Paul and Ankita Verma, who work with the Zero Tolerance Group that was formed after the brutal murders, feel that much has changed since 2011. They told The Indian Express, although there is no stigma attached to sexual harassment in the city, the real victory will be when justice is served.
Published Date: May 02, 2016 01:37 pm | Updated Date: May 02, 2016 01:37 pm