Two unidentified men on Friday entered a residential building in Churchgate and opened fire, allegedly in an attempt to kill social activist Nayana Kathpalia (65).
Kathpalia is the co-convener of the NGO Citispace and has been leading citizens’ movements to preserve open spaces for years. She was instrumental in preserving the Oval Maidan. Hours later, Neera Punj, convenor of Citispace, too received an anonymous threat call.
The shooting incident took place around 6.45 am at Swastik building, opposite the Oval Maidan, where she lives.
Seeing that the entrance was unguarded, the two men entered the society. While one of them kept watch in the compound, the other walked up to the first floor where Kathpalia lives and rang her doorbell. When Soma Sinha (28), the domestic help, opened the door, the man asked for Kathpalia, but before Sinha could reply, he fired two rounds and fled. Sinha was not injured as the bullets hit the grill.
The police have registered a case of attempt to murder against unidentified men. Speculating about the reasons for the attack, Iqbal Shaikh, assistant commissioner of police of Marine Drive police station, said: “There were many cases in court that Kathpalia was fighting for and it is difficult to pinpoint a reason. She had never got extortion or threat calls.”
An official from Marine Drive police station said: “Kathpalia does not suspect anything but she was been raising her voice against hawkers to protect open spaces, and this could have annoyed someone.” The police are trying to make a sketch of the accused based on China’s description. Kathpalia, was unavailable for comment, but her husband said: “We are simple people and have no enemies.” He added: “This would not threaten us.”
Referring to the threat call, Punj said: “The person told me they had taken care of Nayana and that we must withdraw the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) case filed in court.” Citispace had approached Bombay High Court in 2002 objecting to SRA projects being allowed on plots reserved for public purposes. Now, construction on a reserved open space requires the court’s permission.