The fact that he was considerably older and unarmed did not deter him from fighting the crook barehanded for 20 long minutes on a busy Kandivli road, even as hundreds gathered to watch without coming to his aid. The incident took place around 5 pm on Sunday, outside ex-hawaldar Uttam Patkar's photo studio in Kandivli.
Uttam's employee, Samir Gavde had just left the studio and was getting on his bike when a local thug, Balaji Laxman Patil (27) put a knife to his neck and demanded money. Balaji thrust his hand into Samir's pocket and pulled out Rs 1,100. Uttam - who lives nearby - heard Samir's calls for help and rushed to his rescue.
"The local boy (Balaji) is notorious; he has been troubling many shopkeepers in the area. When I intervened, I saw that he had a sharp knife in one hand and in the other he was holding a stone. The first thing I did was to jump and grab the hand holding the knife. I held a very tight grip on it to ensure that he could not attack me with the knife," recalled Uttam.
The 61-year-old suffers from blood pressure issues and was running out of breath during the scuffle. Despite this, he held on for more than 20 minutes and ensured that the crook was handed over to the police who turned up nearly half an hour later.
"The accused punched and kicked me and tried to loosen my grip on his hand and knife, but I made sure that I did not let go, thanks to my Army training. I fought him hard, but his blows were much stronger as he was younger," said Uttam, who soon noticed a huge crowd gathering to watch the struggle.
According to him, there were a few times when Balaji managed to break free and pelted him with stones, but Uttam got the better of him each time. "Finally, I caught him by his collar and hit him with my knee.
Not a single person from the crowd dared to come forward as the accused was brandishing his knife at them. Even my employee was scared and could not face the attacker. I had my arm around his neck and tightened my grip. This went on for more than twenty minutes," Uttam added.
At some point, his son Ravi noticed the commotion and came to his aid and none too soon, as age and exhaustion had already begun to catch up with Uttam. A little later, even the employee, Samir, joined the fight.
"I have blood pressure problems, and due to this fight my blood pressure started shooting up. Finally my son arrived and helped me to hold the accused. But since the accused was under the influence of some narcotics, he was not getting tired. By the time we over powered him, there were thousands of people watching," said Uttam, who finally called the cops after they got the situation under control.
A police patrol team of two constables arrived at the scene around half an hour into the scuffle, but Balaji had punched and kicked one of them Mohammad Iqbal Hamza Mulla, who had undergone an angioplasty procedure four years ago. The other cop immediately called for backup on the police wireless.
The reinforcements took nearly half an hour to get there, and meanwhile, it was Uttam who came to the rescue of the constables, fighting off the goon. "I was breathing hard and my entire body was trembling.
My daughter-in-law asked me to rest, fearing that I might collapse, but his arrest was important. I did not let him go till the police arrived at the spot," said the sexagenarian. Balaji continued with his aggression even after the police showed up, but he was finally subdued and taken away.
An FIR was registered against Balaji under Sections 394 (Voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery), 384 (extortion), 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506(2) (Criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. Police Inspector Sudhakar Humbe from the Samta Nagar police station said that Balaji is a history-sheeter with several cases of extortion, assault and other crimes against him.
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