October 7, 2016 2:39:45 am
MUMBAI POLICE now plan to summon Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member Preeti Sharma-Menon and former MTV VJ Raghu Ram to record their statements in connection with the alleged harassment of media production house executive Barun Kashyap by an autorickshaw driver over his “leather bag.” The police have claimed that Kashyap was lying and arrested him. Sources said the development comes after Menon’s driver Roshan Pashilkar allegedly told the police that Kashyap was seen with Menon for two days before his arrest.
“The driver, in his statement, has revealed that he had picked up Menon and Kashyap from Masjid Bunder on Sunday afternoon and had driven them to Sharma-Menon’s Chembur home. On Monday, Kashyap stayed over at her place. On Tuesday morning, Sharma-Menon had asked the driver to drop him off at CST,” a senior official said. When Pashilkar was about to start his car, a special team headed by former encounter specialist Daya Nayak — who is now attached to the Amboli police station where the case is registered — stopped the car and brought the driver and Kashyap to the police station.
“We would want to know why Preeti Sharma-Menon gave refuge to a wanted accused. It amounts to aiding and abetting under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and she would soon be summoned,” the official added. Kashyap is now in police custody for allegedly filing a false complaint and promoting enmity between communities. The police will also summon Raghu Ram after Kashyap reportedly revealed during interrogation that it was Ram who had asked him to get in touch with Sharma-Menon and even spoke to her over the phone.
“During the course of the interrogation, Kashyap has revealed that he moved to Mumbai in 2014 and worked under Raghu Ram. After learning that a case was registered against him, he immediately contacted Ram, who advised him to get in touch with Sharma-Menon,” the official revealed. When contacted, Sharma-Menon confirmed that Ram had indeed introduced her to Kashyap and since he needed legal aide, she decided to help him.
“Raghu contacted me and informed me about Kashyap’s case. After that, I asked Kashyap to get in touch with a lawyer and met him on Sunday. The lawyer advised him to prepare an affidavit and give a fresh statement. On Monday, he sent me his statement. I fixed the grammatical errors and sent the statement back to him. He came to my home on Tuesday and after consulting me, I asked the driver to drop him wherever he wanted,” Menon told The Indian Express.
However, Sharma-Menon denied that Kashyap stayed over at her place. “ I have a small home and I stay with my 17-year old daughter and three dogs. I don’t entertain strangers at my place,” she added. When contacted, Ram confirmed that it was he who put Kashyap in touch with Sharma-Menon. “Kashyap worked with me in the past and stays alone in Mumbai. On Sunday, he got in touch with me. Since I knew Menon, I put Kashyap in touch with her so that she could get him some legal advice,” Raghu told The Indian Express.
“It is a clear-cut case of bullying. Kashyap is a timid boy and would not cook up a story. He has been wrongly arrested,” added Ram. According to police, Kashyap has said he made up the story about being harassed by the auto driver and others over his bag because he was late to work. However, investigators have also found that Kashyap left home at his usual time on August 19 — the day of the alleged incident — as claimed by his roommate. “The roommate told us that Kashyap generally wakes up at 11 am and leaves for work around noon. On August 19 too, he left around the same time,” another official said.
That day, Kashyap wrote a lengthy post on his Facebook page, claiming that an autorickshaw driver took him to a location where two unidentified men intimidated him for using the leather bag and let him off with a warning. After an FIR was lodged, the police told Kashyap to delete the post. Officers have also accessed CCTV footage of parts of his auto ride. The footage, reviewed by The Indian Express, shows Kashyap leaving his building gate at 12.47 pm. Kashyap had claimed that he crossed the road and hailed an autorickshaw from the opposite side.
However, the CCTV footage shows Kashyap hailing an autorickshaw from right outside his building after a girl alighted from it. He is also seen sitting in the autorickshaw, engrossed with his phone. The next claim made by Kashyap was that the rickshaw driver took a detour, but in the CCTV footage procured from Kashyap’s office lobby, he is seen entering the office at 12.54 pm, minutes after hailing he auto.
While the lobby footage shows Kashyap entering the office at 12.49pm, the staff who handles the CCTV of the building told the police that on that day, the watch in the cameras were running late by five-minutes. “If we add that, it means Kashyap reached office at 12.54pm, which wouldn’t have been possible if he had taken a detour,” the official explained. While entering the lobby, Kashyap is seen speaking to a friend. The police have also recorded the statement of this friend, who has confirmed that on August 19 he spoke to Kashyap at the said time.
“His Call Data Record ( CDR) reveals the same. We have also recorded the statement of the security guard who was posted at the lobby on that day and is seen in the footage. Even the security guard has confirmed seeing Kashyap entering around 1pm and being on the phone while entering the lift,” the official revealed. The police is now probing if Kashyap posted his Facebook note to stir a row over gaurakshaks (cow vigilantes). In other Facebook posts, police said, Kashyap had expressed his anger over the Dadri incident.
“He seems to be an activist and has previously used social media as a platform to project his views. Kashyap complained about the harassment just days after PM Modi spoke about gaurakshaks being extortionists. We are probing if that comment triggered Kashyap to cook up this story to fan a controversy,” the official explained. “Before coming to Mumbai he was in Delhi. We are probing if he was associated with the AAP in any way in Delhi,” the official added.
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