Some say he is dead, others claim he works at a private hospital in New Delhi. But nobody knows for sure where Sohanlal Bhartha Valmiki, who served a seven-year sentence for the assault on Aruna Shanbaug, currently is.
Those who were a part of the investigating team still have a vivid memory of the incident. On November 27, 1973, Valmiki caught hold of Shanbaug at an isolated corridor of the KEM hospital in Parel. He strangulated Shanbaug with a dog chain with such force that the oxygen supply to her brain got cut. Valmiki raped her, robbed her and fled.
The brutality of the assault not just shocked the city, but also the Mumbai police team under police commissioner MS Mugwe, which launched a manhunt. The assailant was found in Pune. “We wanted the strictest punishment for the assailant,” said an officer, who was part of the team.
Valmiki was not charged for rape, but for attempt to murder. He was sentenced to seven years’ jail. As Valmiki had, as an undertrial, spent a year in prison, he was out of the prison in six years.
Valmiki, who was 28 at the time of the incident, must now be around 70. But so many years later, too, there is no answer to why he was not charged for rape. Also, after Shanbaug’s death, will he be charged for murder? Nobody knows.