Just as in an apartment in Reay Road, the happiness seems to have been sucked out of another home nearly 4,000 km away — in Malaysia. But while one family takes its fight to court, another struggles for answers — the gulf in their understanding wider than the physical distance separating them.
Four months after Agnelo Valdaris (25) was allegedly tortured to death in police custody, his girlfriend is still wondering if he was guilty of committing the crime for which he was picked up by the Wadala Government Railway Police, just past midnight on April 16.
“I don’t know if he really stole that chain. No one answered this question for me,” Niviya Ravindra told Newsline over the phone from Kluang City.
The 22-year-old added, “I don’t care if he did it or not. Why should he deserve being beaten up like that?” she said.
Soon after Agnelo’s death, Niviya, then in shock, admitted attempting suicide twice. “I tried to hang myself the first time. My brother saved me then. A few days later, I cut my wrists. My mother spotted me then,” she said.
Niviya’s parents checked her into rehabilitation for a month. “I’ve come out feeling better. I work as an accountant with my father. I just keep working to try and forget about him (Agnelo),” she said.
Niviya’s father runs a construction company in Kuang City. Her family hails from Kerala. Niviya was born and raised in Malaysia.
She and Agnelo fell in love after meeting each other five years ago on social networking site Facebook. However, they had never met. “A year ago, we had decided to get married. He was to come here in December to meet my parents,” Niviya said. The couple last spoke on April 15. “He sent a text message afterwards,” said Niviya.
Unable to contact him for the next three days, Niviya was shattered when a friend told her about a news report on Agnelo’s death.
‘A COP SAID HE WOULD KILL MY SON’
Four months after his son was allegedly tortured to death by the police, Leonard Valdaris feels confident that the CBI will conduct an impartial probe into his son’s death. Following directives of the Bombay High Court, the agency is also investigating the alleged sexual abuse of Valdaris’s son and three other boys in the Government Railway Police lock-up at Wadala. Valdaris welcomed the High Court order passed last week, mandating CCTVs to be placed in every room of each police station in the state.
Excerpts from an interview with the 52-year-old employee of the Mumbai Port Trust:
Have you now understood what your son and his friends were charged with?
On April 9 or 10, a senior citizen’s chain was snatched by four men at Dockyard Road railway station. At the time of incident, Agnelo and others were at Reay Road railway station, so the police became suspicious. On April 16, they called the complainant to the police station to identify the accused. That day, he said nothing. Earlier this month, he was called for a test identification parade at Byculla Jail, where two of the men (co-accused) were lodged. That day, he identified them.
When was the last time you saw your son?
In the casualty ward of Sion Hospital on April 17. He had been brought in for having two cuts on his wrists bandaged. Before the police took him away, he said, ‘They will kill me, daddy.’ Agnelo had told doctors that cops had injured him. A senior inspector then asked me to tell the doctors otherwise. My son was adamant to stick with his version, but I thought that even if he had committed the crime, they would not be so harsh on him. I told the doctors the wounds were self-inflicted. The inspector assured me that the police would not assault Agnelo anymore and produce him in court the next day. I realise now that I took things lightly.
What was the response of senior officers when your son was not being produced in court?
They did not even acknowledge a letter I had faxed on April 16 on the matter.
What did the other co-accused tell you?
Four boys had been suspended upside down and assaulted. My son was a bit heavy. So they tied his hands and legs and hit him. A constable said he would kill him. After being released on bail, the boys told me that this constable had assaulted them the most. The investigating officer, a woman sub-inspector, was also present in the lock-up when they were sexually assaulted.
Are you relieved that the case is now being probed by the CBI?
I am a little confident.
With your son gone, what are you now fighting for?
Nobody should lose their son like I have. I will fight to seek justice for everybody.