For those who don’t know, the 60-year-old Valerian Santos is the father of Keenan Santos, who along with Reuben Fernandez, were murdered when they tried to protect their female friends from being harassed on 20 October 2011, in Amboli, Mumbai.
After five long years, marked by several delays, a lower Mumbai court convicted four men for murdering the duo and sentenced to life imprisonment.
On 4 June, Jitendra Rana alias Chaina (30), the prime accused in the 2011 murder, was released from the Nashik prison on a 28-day furlough, a leave from prison that every convict is entitled to by way of right. The furlough was from 6 June till 4 July.
Responding to this development, Santos sought police protection for both families and the witnesses in the case.
Following the plea, the Mumbai Police performed their responsibilities with utmost dedication, says Santos, deploying round the clock protection. Going beyond the call of duty, they also ensured that Valerian’s 60th birthday was an occasion to remember.
“The Mumbai Police did a good job of investigating the case, writing up the charge sheet, producing it in court, ensuring the witnesses present their testimony fearlessly, and eventually getting a conviction from the honourable court. The police have been really helpful. Whenever I have sought their help, they have come forward and helped me,” says Santos, speaking to The Better India.
“Most recently, when the person [Rana] came out [on furlough], I had put an application for the protection of witnesses. But since the threat was primarily on me because he had promised to finish me off when he comes out, the police set up a full protection detail for me for the time he was out and did a wonderful job of it. They have never left me alone; at any given time, three policemen were protecting me. Even if I went to work or the market, I was accompanied by an armed constable who would accompany me. For those 28 days they never let me out of their sight,” he added.
Santos singled out Senior Inspector Bharat Gaikwad, the head of the Amboli Police Station who took the initiative of giving him protection, for praise.
“Day and night, the police stood outside my for protection. It was a really great gesture when they suddenly appeared on the evening of my birthday to wish me. It’s a definite change in how the Mumbai Police has presented itself before its citizens, gaining their confidence; it lets you know that the police and government are there with you,” says Santos.
— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) May 31, 2019
“I along with my entire team, paid a surprise visit to Keenan’s family on Valerian’s birthday. We want him to know that the police are always there to safeguard him and his family. The step was taken to win the family’s confidence as they have been fearing for their safety,” said Gaikwad, in a conversation with the Mid-Day publication.
“This was a troubling period to just me and my family, but also the police as well. They did their best to ensure that we weren’t troubled by their presence, but I believe that the law must change with respect to the business of giving furloughs. If the murderer or rapist has the right to meet their family at his home, then what about us? We will never have the opportunity to meet our son. As a good citizen, I respect the law, but something needs to change about the law with regards to furloughs,” argues Santos, speaking to The Better India.
The case is now in the Bombay High Court, but it has not come up for hearing even though it has accepted the appeal of those convicted.
For the ordinary citizen, the police are often the first port of call when there is trouble in their neighbourhood. If the police don’t inspire confidence in the people they are mandated to protect; there is little a citizen can do.
While wishing Santos on his 60th birthday was a wonderful gesture in itself, what it represented was an attempt to reiterate the message that the police are always there for him. This is what the police anywhere must aspire to do for all citizens.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)