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Blasts witness' sons have nobody to turn to
Vijay Singh in Mumbai |
September 09, 2003 21:42 IST
Last Updated: September 09, 2003 22:10 IST
The two sons of the most celebrated witness of August 25 twin blasts in Mumbai have nobody to turn to today.
Shivkant Pandey, 19 and Harikant Pandey, 18 -- sons of Shivnarayan Pandey, whose taxi blew up at the Gateway of India that Monday afternoon -- had been in Mumbai for just two months when the tragedy struck.
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Their father, who survived the deadly blast because he had stepped out for lunch, has been under detention at the Crime Branch office for over two weeks now and only Harikant was allowed to see him a few days back.
Though Shivnarayan Pandey has been made something of a hero by political parties in what appears more a game of one-upmanship than any real appreciation of the role he has played in tracking the suspects, not many people are aware of the family's plight.
The Shiv Sena has declared a reward of Rs 500,000 for Pandey -- they call it the 'Mee Mumbaikar' award -- but the family has not seen the money yet.
Not that it bothers them, all that Harikant and Shivkant want at this moment is their father to return home.
In their cramped chawl room at Poisar, Kandivli (east), the brothers look reluctant to talk. They are scared, they say.
The room is divided by a wood partition. They have rented out the other part. There is a bed, a stove and a few pots in a corner.
The other day, while the brothers were at a Ganpati pandal in the neighbourhood, they were accosted by some people they had never seen before. They wanted to know about their father. When some other people at the pandal asked for the strangers' identity, they quickly slipped away.
The cops were informed of the incident. The vigil in the area has now been increased.
Shivkant and Harikant are employed at a small factory in Andheri in northern Mumbai. Harikant gets Rs 37 a day, while his elder brother makes a little more.
Their father used to drive the factory owner's car on weekdays and the taxi on weekends. He used to collect their salary from the factory at the end of every month.
The brothers have now run out of money.
Shivkant says that though the factory owner has assured them help, they are not used to asking for money from anybody but their father.
"We don't even know this city. We don't know anyone here. We used to take money from Papa. I don't know what to do now," he says.
On the evening of August 24, Shivnarayan Pandey had come home happy. The people -- a middle-aged couple -- he had driven around that day had paid him Rs 600.
Though the Pandeys used to buy their wheat, rice and pulses every day, that evening there was some left from the morning and they decided to buy more the next day.
The memory of what happened the next day makes Shivkant cry.
The couple his father had driven around on August 24 had booked the cab for the next day too. They wanted to go to the Gateway of India.
The next day being Monday, Shivnarayan Pandey was to report at the factory. But as fate would have it, the taxi owner was not well and he asked Shivnarayan to take the taxi out. "Why are you wasting the opportunity to make another Rs 600," Shivnarayan was told.
Shivnarayan called the factory and took a day's leave.
Harikant called his mother at their village the other day. She was crying. "She told me that you three come back to the village after your father is released. We will go back now. It's too risky for us to stay here. But we also know one thing...my father will do what he wants to...he is very stubborn."