At 12.30 pm, people start gathering for namaaz at a mosque in Unnati nagar of Hadapsar area in Pune. An awkward silence follows the moment Mohsin Shaikh's name is mentioned. "We want to forget the incident," the residents say before leaving.
Mohsin Shaikh, an IT professional, was attacked and murdered by a mob on 2 June, 2014 in the violence that had erupted in the area due to a controversial post on social media. The three accused in this case – Vijay Gambhire, Ganesh alias Ranjeet Shankar Yadav and Ajay Lalge —were granted bail by the high court in the second week of January this year.
According to the order, half-an-hour before the incident, Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai had held a meeting in Hadapsar. He delivered a speech at the meeting which allegedly instigated the violence. Accused had no other motive such as personal enmity against the deceased. The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. They were provoked in the name of religion, observed Justice Mrudula Bhatkar.
"Was it Mohsin's fault that he was born in a Muslim family?" asks his grieving father Mohammed Sadiq Shaikh. "Mohsin’s death came at a huge cost. The family is trying to recover from it. My family had to face financial difficulties. The government had promised a job for my younger son. After following it for two and a half years, they said he cannot get a job as Mohsin was not a government employee. Mohsin had pursued masters in computer administration and he used to bring home Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 per month. How are we expected to survive?" he asks.
Amin Shaikh, an eyewitness and a victim, was shocked after the court's decision. On the day of the incident, he was returning from his village when he was attacked by a mob. He ran inside a nearby shop and locked himself inside. He survived with a few injuries.
“Some memories don’t fade away. I lost everything I had after the incident," says Amin. “I had seen them killing Mohsin. People came to know that I am an eyewitness in the case. I was working as a scrap dealer and had to travel to various places every day. But I had to shut down my business because after this incident people refused to do business with me. Workers in my shop left out of fear. And I couldn’t manage everything on my own. I was sitting idle at home for almost one and a half years. But I have a big family, so I started driving an autorickshaw. But I make it a point to come back home by 8 pm every day. I was scared that even though the accused were in jail, their friends would come to the nearby area. The court has now granted them bail. I am still trying to come to terms with it. What if something happens to me?" he asks.
The riots had spread to parts of western Maharashtra too. On the night of Mohsin's murder, shops in Kolhapur were vandalised. Jiya Sajan, owner of Hollywood Shoes in Kolhapur, was shocked when he heard of the bail. “Though I financially recovered, I was not able to recover emotionally. The way people looked at me has changed," he says.
Activists and lawyers have decided to challenge the decision in court. A Pune-based legal group — Advocacy Association — has filed an application before the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, seeking to quash the bail order.
“It was an atrocious mention of religion of the victim. The justification given while granting bail to the accused was unwarranted. It has sent a very wrong message. This order shows the need to have strict law against mass violence. The court seems to have taken into consideration the rights of the accused but failed in recognising the victim's perspective,” said Asim Sarode, a Pune-based lawyer and a human rights activist.
“I fear this decision will send a wrong message. Someone gets killed because of religion and the court says there was no personal enmity. With due respect to the court, I want to ask aren’t these two statements contradictory? I am really disturbed after reading the court order. Former judges and legal experts should now discuss the decision on a public forum,” said veteran socialist leader Baba Adhav.
Mohsin’s family has written to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra seeking appointment of senior advocate Ujjwal Nikam in this case. They are looking at legal options and are planning to move the Supreme Court. The hearing for Dhananjay Desai's bail plea is expected on 1 February. The family is now waiting for the government to take cognizance and decide on their application before the hearing.
Updated Date: Jan 30, 2017 16:24 PM