Anwar Raj Guru, a native of Sawantwadi decided to end his Kafkaesque ordeal. He burnt his own bike, a red Royal Enfield Thunderbird. After acquittal in a seven-year trial where his bike was impounded on allegations of forged documents towards registration, Anwar further faced a prolonged delay in getting the bike released, with the Goa Police and the Transport authorities further taking months to process the court’s May order and issue the release documents.
On October 4, when he finally got the bike in the evening, which he had purchased on March 19, 2009, he paid a five-year insurance, cleared the RTO penalty and ferried it to the vicinity of the Judicial Magistrate court which had acquitted him of all charges, and put the bike on flames. In a video that went viral across Goa, Anwar is seen reaching the spot at 8 pm, splashing petrol on the bike, lighting a matchstick, and then lighting a cigarette and taking a puff as he patiently watches the bike going ablaze.
“I wanted it to be symbolic. A common man’s ordeal. Initially, I parked the bike right in front of the court. But it was evening and there were some poi vendors and a crowd was buying the Goan bread. My intention was not to hurt anyone. I moved the bike a little ahead, but still across the court and set it ablaze,” says Anwar, speaking to The Indian Express. He says, he requested a car parked ahead to move, as “it was an enfield which was going to burn”.
The fire marshalls later cleared off the site and ferried the remnants of the 180 kilo vehicle, which Anwar says, was “once his only dream”.
Anwar claims in the last seven years, his health deteriorated as he kept waiting for the witnesses to depose, even as the case kept getting dragged. “I never missed a court date. It always came up every 15 days. I would travel all the way to attend the arguments. Those who complained and the witnesses in the case kept getting summoned. Of the panchas, one died. The witnesses never appeared on time even after repeated summons. Once while traveling to attend the date, I met with an accident and then started appearing in crutches,” he recollects. “What they saw was a man burning a bike. What I felt was an end to my frustrations.”
The allegation against Anwar was that he along with an agent forged an Elector’s Photo Identity Card to get registration of the bike done in Goa. An Assistant Motor Vehicles Inspector on March 19, spotted a discrepancy and alerted his seniors and the office of the Mamlatdar office, who then found that Rajguru’s name was missing in the 2009 voter’s list in Goa. The trial began in 2011, with the acquittal coming for Anwar and the agent on May 5, 2018, were his defence lawyers were able to prove that the investigation was faulty. The court noted the faulty and incomplete probe, where it was pointed that the mamlatdar office did not scrutinise the records prior to 2006, no statement of the notary recorded, and an entire probe resting on a Xerox copy of a Elector’s Photo identity card, with no documents verified to probe if it was forged. “On the basis of verification of the records of the year 2009 it cannot be said that the card issued in the year 2006 is forged,” reads the judgement acquitting the two.
Anwar says, for him the trial was most difficult as at no stage did the prosecution which levied charges of forgery, ask for the original. “On day one itself I admitted I had paid Rs 6,000 to the agent for a Goa registration. There was no intention to cheat. I genuinely regret that decision, but then after I admitted, the legal course should have been more practical. Instead here I was attending a trial where except me no one appeared to depose for years. It was a mockery of judiciary where none of those of the prosecution witnesses even attempted to respond to summons. When they eventually came recently, I had already lost everything, plus paid an advocate fee and travel expenditure came to Rs 3 lakh.” His lawyer Subhash Narvekar admits the delays, “Trials do take long. In this case, it was a simple probe which should have been done and the case disposed off. The Investigating officer got retired, the other witnesses were transported officials who kept getting new postings. This trial also saw three magistrates as after three years judges too change. We never missed a date, but the prosecution side did have delays. This was a simple case, but it did take long as several summons were repeated as people failed to attend.”
Anwar says, he feels lighter, “I could not have rode that bike. It would have been frustrating to see it every day, recollecting the ordeal.”