The Rediff Special/Syed Firdaus Ashraf
'When they can kill a man like Gulshan Kumar, who are we?'
Ask no questions. You will get no answers in Jeet Nagar, Four Bungalows, in the northwestern Bombay suburb of Andheri.
This is a mohalla quite unlike others of its hustling, bustling ilk. The silence here is laced with fear.
On August 12, 1997, Jeet Nagar witnessed the murder of music magnate Gulshan Kumar.
So a question like 'Did you see Gulshan Kumar being killed?' will fetch you a flat NO.
"I started this shop only a year ago. I know nothing about the case," says the local barber.
"I shifted only two years ago. Gulshan Kumar was killed four years ago," nods the laundry man.
Declares a woman who refuses to divulge her identity, "Whatever happened four years ago, I cannot recall."
"When they can kill a man like Gulshan Kumar, who are we? We are small people. Please don't ask so many questions," adds another neighbour.
Probe deeper and you realise that the people of the locality held Kumar in great respect.
The music baron was a regular devotee at the mohalla's Shiva temple. He would visit the temple twice daily, praying for an hour each time. On each of his visits, he was accompanied by 49-year-old Ramchandra Ananda Lavangare, a plumber. The police later identified him in their first information report as a former chairperson of the mandal that built the temple.
It was Gulshan Kumar whose funds transformed what once was a nondescript Shiva temple into a twenty-foot marbled place of worship.
On that fateful day, Kumar and Lavangare were returning from the temple when an unknown man came up behind Kumar and shot him. The driver of Kumar's Opel Astra threw a water can on the attacker to stop him from taking his next shot.
But another assailant rushed in and shot Kumar. He then aimed at the driver and Lavangare. While the driver was hurt, a bullet whistled between Lavangare's legs. Meanwhile, a third attacker shot Kumar.
In the ensuing chaos, two bystanders, Madhukar Gopal Kawankar and Subhash Bajirao, were injured.
"Initially, I thought someone was bursting crackers. But when I came out of my house, I saw that Gulshan Kumar had been shot," says a woman resident.
"We put Gulshan Kumar and his driver in his Opel Astra. Rajesh Johari [another bystander] drove them to Cooper Hospital. Kumar was declared dead on arrival," states Ramchandra in the FIR.
"We all cried when he died. No one came forward to help him. The killers had just left the place when I came out of my house," says another woman.
"He would always give us chocolates and sweets," recalls a child. "I cannot believe that he is no more."
He is merely echoing the sentiments of the people of Jeet Nagar, who have since placed Kumar's photograph adjacent to Shiva's idol.
A woman resident ends with the question that still begs an answer: "I can't believe how a nice man like him could have enemies!"
Page design: Dominic Xavier
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