Aarti Thakur, who was attacked with acid at Goregaon station on Tuesday, had approached the police after she was attacked the first time, but the cops dismissed it as an attempt at chain snatching. On hearing that, Aarti’s landlady Manju Shaikh, who had accompanied the girl to the police station, convinced her not to file a case.
On Wednesday, the Borivli Government Railway Police (GRP) arrested Manju’s son, Pintoo Shaikh, for the third attack on Aarti, the one at Goregaon station. Pintoo, 24, works as an extra on film sets. Seema, a divorcee with two daughters, said the first attack on Aarti shook the Thakurs so much that they decided to not live in Malwani any more. “After staying in Malwani for three years, we moved out due to fear. A year ago, Aarti had got engaged to Nadeem Shaikh, a sand contractor who lives in Nalasopara. So we moved closer to Nadeem’s place. The two intend to marry soon,” she said.
But moving didn’t end the ordeal for Aarti, a receptionist with an IT firm in Goregaon (W). The family shifted to the Nalasopara home just two weeks ago. Barely three days later, she was attacked with a barber’s razor from behind. “She suffered cuts to her neck and ear. I took her to a chowky to lodge a complaint, but the policeman said they didn’t file cases there, that we had to go to a police station,” Seema said, adding that since the injuries were comparatively minor, they decided not to lodge a case.
After that, Seema made it a ritual to drop and pick up Aarti from her office everyday. “On Tuesday, I was feeling unwell so I told her to come home on her own,” Seema said. Aarti was talking to her fiance on the phone near the Goregaon station booking office when a man flung acid at her.
Seema said, “I can’t break down in front of Aarti, but I’m scared of returning to my Nalasopara house now.” She said she may never have the confidence to leave her daughters alone at home and go to work. The second daughter is 16 years old. Seema worked at a private firm, but quit two months ago.
In all three attacks, Aarti did not get a look at the attacker’s face. Aarti said, “Had the police acted to help me after the first attack last year, Tuesday’s incident could have been averted.” She said the authorities have woken up too late to her plight. Besides the physical pain, the marks on her face left her distressed after the first attack.
Pintoo has reportedly told the railway police that when Aarti was his tenant, she used to taunt him over his inability to earn well, which led to frequent fights in his household. He also objected to his sister, Ruby, having a close friendship with Aarti. The police are not ruling out any other angles, including unrequited love, or that other people may be involved.
GRP officials said Aarti suspected Pintoo’s involvement in Tuesday evening’s acid attack as she had seen him hanging around her office a day earlier. The GRP contacted the Malwani police and in a joint operation they picked up Pintoo at around 5am on Wednesday . “Pintoo wasn’t around when the police landed at his house. We asked his mother to phone and summon him home,” an official said.
A metropolitan court has remanded Pintoo to police custody till February 7. Pintoo has not admitted to any crime and no acid bottle or container have been recovered. GRP officials said CCTV cameras covered the area at Goregaon station , but the footage is unclear and not of help. The police have not drawn any conclusions on the perpetrators of the first two attacks.
Aarti’s father, Kishore, is an auto driver and lives separately.