Thirty-nine-year old Sharmila Rai is fighting for her life at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Institute of Brain and Spine in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar. Her husband, Rakesh Rai, is waiting for his relatives and friends outside the ICU, hoping they have managed to arrange Rs 6 lakh needed for her brain surgery.
On December 27 afternoon, Sharmila fell from a moving autorickshaw when three men on a black motorcycle tried to snatch her bag. She had tied the bag to her wrist. She fell from the auto rickshaw, possibly moving at a speed of 40 kilometres an hour, on the Defence Colony flyover and suffered severe injuries to the brain.
While police are yet to nab the bikers, there have been at least four similar incidents of women travelling in autos targeted by bikers with the same modus operandi and on the same stretch within a radius of around three kilometers.
All incidents reportedly occurred between 2.30 pm and 4.45 pm and involved a black bike. Police suspect the same gang may be involved in all the cases.
Sample this: On the day Sharmila was attacked, three men on a bike snatched the handbag of a Canadian couple travelling in an autorickshaw.
This happened around 2.10 pm at Neel Gumbad in Hazrat Nizamuddin, around two kilometers away from where Sharmila fell off the auto. The bag had their passports, cell phones and cash for over Rs 10,000.
There were two cases on December 31, reported from spots half a kilometre apart on the same stretch. At around 3 pm, three men on a bike snatched the wallet of a woman doctor when she was on her way to the interstate bus terminus in Kashmere Gate. This took place outside the petrol pump in Jangpura, near the end of the Defence Colony flyover.
At around the same time, a woman who crossed the petrol pump in an auto and reached the flyover filed a similar complaint. The woman told police that three men on a “black colour Pulsar motorcycle” snatched her wallet.
In an incident reported on December 25, a Jamia Nagar resident’s handbag was snatched by three men on a bike at the start of the Defence Colony flyover near the Ring Road at 4.45 pm.
Joint commissioner of police (south eastern) range, RP Upadhaya who heads south and south east districts where the case were reported said, “We have already identified the culprits in this case. Several raids have been conducted to nab them. They are on the run. We are trying to catch them soon.”
There were two more similar cases — one of a BSF constable robbed near the CGO complex on January 1 by bikers; the second of a woman whose wallet was snatched in Lodhi Colony. But in neither case were victims travelling by autos.
2 Dec 27: Sanwal Nagar resident Sharmila Rai fell from a moving auto while trying to save her bag from 3 bikers on Defence Colony flyover
3 Dec 27: Three bikers snatched a Canadian couple’s handbag at 2.10 pm, occurred at Neel Gumbad in Hazrat Nizamuddin, 2 kms from where Sharmila fell off the auto
4 Dec 31: Three bikers snatched a doctor’s wallet when she was on her way to the Kashmere Gate ISBT at 3 pm, took place outside a petrol pump in Jangpura, near Defence Colony flyover.
5 Dec 31: At 3 pm, a woman in an auto who crossed the petrol pump and reached the flyover complained to police that three men on a "black colour Pulsar motorcycle" snatched her wallet.