On October 20, 2011, Keenan Santos and his friend Reuben Fernandez, both in their 20s, were killed by a group of men when they tried to protect their female friends from being harassed.
After dinner at the Amboli Bar and Kitchen in Mumbai, Keenan, Reuben and their friends, Avinash Solanki, Benjamin Fernandez (Reuben’s brother), Priyanka Fernandes and two other women, were visiting a neighbourhood paan shop when a group of men began to pass lewd remarks at the women. When Keenan objected to the remarks, they thought the issue had ended then. The group then left, only to return with weapons along with 20 others and killed Keenan, while wounding Reuben, who succumbed to his injuries a week later.
The four friends had no time to react. “They stabbed Keenan first. Then Reuben came forward. They hit me with a bamboo stick on my head and I fell to the ground. I saw Keenan fall on his back. One attacker pressed him down with his knee, looked him in the eye, and stabbed him squarely in the chest. That’s the stab that took Keenan’s life,” said Benjamin.
Five years later, after several delays, Keenan’s father will be present at the special women’s court on Monday when it gives its verdict against the four accused. Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam will be representing the State.
A year after the murder, he had written a letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting stronger laws to ensure the safety of women.
“Based on the common sentiments and taking into consideration the practicality of the existing framework, I would like to put forward certain demands and recommendations to address the growing menace of all forms of sexual harassment in the country,” Valerian Santos had written in the letter.
The four main accused in the case are Jitendra Rana, Satish Dulgaj, Sunil Bhot and Deepak Tival, all belonging to Valmiki Nagar, a slum pocket near Amboli Kitchen and Bar.