Mumbai: For 20 minutes, the residents of Sundar Wadi in Versova looked on mutely as their 36-year-old neighbour smouldered outside his home around 10.30 pm on Monday night. It wasn't until his seven-year-old son came out and saw him wrapped in flames that the police was called.
The deceased identified as Rehmat Shah, a Bollywood light man, was allegedly set afire by three local goons over a property dispute. Cops have booked the trio, who are absconding, for murder.
According to Shah's family, his seven-year-old son Rizwan came out at night looking for his father when he saw Shah up in flames. "I saw my father burning and got frightened. I ran to my uncle Ahmed and told him," said Rizwan. Shah's wife, Mumtaz, was away at her village along with their five-year-old son Rihan at the time of the incident.
Shah's brother, Ahmed, who called up the police control room, said that after Rizwan told him of the incident, he rushed out to see a burning figure, screaming and scrambling around in the open ground, at the centre of a ring of people. "The locals of the area had surrounded my brother, but nobody came forward to douse the fire or help him. By the time I intervened to help, it was too late," said Ahmed, adding, "Rizwan told me that he saw a local goon, Savio Anthony (actually Shah's brother-in-law), and two of his accomplices run away from the spot after torching Shah. We have lodged a complaint against Anthony, his father Salvio, and one Sanjay Parab."
He continued, "Anthony would always bicker with us as he wanted to grab our two rooms for redevelopment under the SRA scheme. Three days ago he had hit me and six months ago he had beat up Shah and damaged our houses."
Police officers said the property dispute was within the family, as Shah's sister had married Anthony.
Based on Ahmed's complaint, the Versova police have filed an FIR against the trio under sections 302 (murder) and 34 of the IPC.
The police said that if after investigations, they find no evidence against Anthony, they would probe other angles.
"At present we are trying to trace Anthony and recording the statements of Ahmed and other locals who saw Shah burning. But we have no eyewitness who actually saw Anthony set him ablaze," said Sharad Borse, senior police inspector of Versova police station. "The accused had poured kerosene on Shah before setting him on fire. However no one, not even his family members, came forward to save him. By the time we rushed him to Cooper Hospital, he had died," added Borse.