Chetan Kumar abusing his 75-year-old father in an inebriated state had become an everyday sight for many residents of Khushi Ram Park in southwest Delhi’s Bindapur that they would either open their windows or walk to their doorsteps to witness the drama, never bothering to intervene.
So, when 40-year-old Chetan began beating his father late on Friday evening for failing to fill the water tank, the neighbours decided to watch the drama from a distance. It was only when the elderly man’s cries turned shrill that a couple of neighbours decided to step in.
But they backed off when Chetan told them to keep out of his “family matter”. Left to deal with his family the way he wanted, Chetan allegedly punched his father till he died.
In the recent past, this is the second case of a person being killed in Delhi while neighbours stayed aloof thinking it was a domestic matter. Just three weeks ago, a man beheaded his wife in East Delhi’s Madhu Vihar even as neighbours ignored the woman’s shrieks and cries for help.
Senior police officers attributed this lack of response to an “insensitive” attitude. “Many people think these fights are an everyday affair in those homes and decide not to interfere. They tend to trivialise the violence as domestic issues,” said Dependra Pathak, special commissioner of police.
In the latest case, neighbours have claimed that Chetan was a “dangerous” man who always carried a knife. “He was in the habit of harassing women in our locality after returning home drunk. We would always keep him at a distance. We stay in our homes when he fights with his family,” said Payal.
Neighbours said Chetan would earlier beat up his wife, forcing her to approach Delhi Police’s women’s cell. She had left him and had started living separately with her youngest son around two months ago.
When HT visited the locality, almost all the neighbours present there knew about what had happened, but would keep pointing to others when asked if they intervened. “A few men tried to stop Chetan from beating his father, but he told us it was his family matter,” said Rajni, another neighbour.
Many others said they believed it was one of the usual fights in the family that the neighbourhood was used to seeing. “We thought the fight would end in sometime, the way it usually does. We did not expect he would up killing his father,” said Afsana, another neighbour.
Reacting to the crime, Pathak said the public must react in time and in every possible way to save a life. “People should gather their courage and intervene in cases where it is a question of life and death. If it is not possible to singularly take on an assailant, people must organise themselves to scare the killer,” said Pathak.
“If a physical intervention is not possible, bystanders should raise an alarm for help from others and in the meantime distract the attacker through a verbal attack,” said Pathak, adding that a call to police should be made simultaneously.