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Dr. Asha Goel
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By Mata Press Service
She delivered 10,000 babies in Canada during her 40 years as a doctor. Two years ago, she was found murdered in Mumbai. Now her son is on a quest to find who killed his mother.
Vancouver travel agent Sanjay Goel starts his morning making phone calls to a city some 12,000 miles away.
During the day there are another half a dozen calls to Mumbai as well.
Before going to bed there is a final one to the city on the edge of the Arabian Sea, his family's hometown and the place where his mother was murdered.
This daily routine has been going on for Goel after his mother Dr. Asha Goel, 62, a Canadian obstetrician and gynaecologist who trained and practiced in Saskatchewan and Ontario for 40 years, was killed in Mumbai in August 2003 while visiting a brother.
Since then, Goel, 41, a Canadian-born businessman whose company sells sunshine cruises and luxury holidays, has been on a quest for to bring his mothers killers to justice.
"I have to. I don't have a choice. I won't stop," Goel said in an interview with The Asian Pacific Post, after one of his many daily telephone calls to police, friends and relatives in Mumbai.
The murder of Dr. Goel is rooted in a violent inheritance dispute involving some C$5 million worth of ancestral wealth and her three brothers.
So far, the Goel family has gathered 13,000 signatures from across North America, Europe and Africa for a petition urging Ottawa, particularly the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew to ensure that all possible avenues of investigation are pursued, and to "compel the Indian Government to commit the necessary resources to solve this case."
"There is no question that there were three groups involved: The first one which planned the murder, the second group which executed the murder, and a third group which did the cover-up," Goel said.
Indian police according to Goel, believe the crime was an offshoot of a dispute involving his mother's three brothers over property and assets left behind by his late grandfather, a former landed Canadian immigrant himself, who died in 1986.
Goel said that since the mid-1990s, his mother's brothers-Suresh Agarwal, Subhash Agarwal and Shekhar Agarwal–have been locked in a civil litigation in Mumbai over their inheritance. The case is still pending in court.
The Times of India quoted police investigator J K Hargude: "Dr. Goel had got wind of a conspiracy by her brother, Suresh, to usurp their ancestral properties in Mumbai. What angered Dr. Goel was Suresh's plan to share 50 percent of the properties with a brother Subhash, who lives in Canada, but deny a share to another brother Shekhar, who lives in the United States."
"Dr. Goel had initially not shown any interest in the Mumbai properties, but on learning that Shekhar was being sidelined, had fought with Suresh. She was determined not to let Suresh and Subhash take over the properties if they were doing Shekhar out of his share," Hargude was quoted as saying.
Goel remembers the days leading up to the murder of his mother.
It was July 2003 and one of his sisters was getting married. After the wedding Dr. Goel told her son that she must go to India and visit Suresh who was then undergoing kidney dialysis. "She was very happy that I would be traveling with her and we flew first class," said Goel.
On the night of Aug 16, 2003, Dr. Goel and her son went to Suresh's residence at the 14th floor of the Sudhakar Building in the plush Malabar Hill and a heated discussion between the siblings ensued regarding Subhash's allegations.
Goel returned to Canada ahead of his mother to whom he last spoke with on Aug 21.
A day before Dr. Goel was to leave for Canada, Suresh called up, apologized, and asked her to spend the night at Malabar Hill. Not wanting to leave Mumbai on bad terms with her brother, Dr. Goel consented.
"He had planned a perfect murder," says police investigator Hargude. Suresh had ordered his son-in-law Narendra Goel to hire three men to kill Dr Goel.
The assailants had a kitchen knife and two slabs of granite.
Dr Goel, who delivered more than 10,000 babies in Canada, was bludgeoned, repeatedly stabbed, slashed in the neck and her jaw was broken.
One month after the murder a suspect was arrested. But the case was stonewalled.
Goel's began his campaign to go after the killers.
The case was transferred in January 2004 to the elite "Crime Branch" detectives of the Mumbai Police.
Their unit extracted a confession from the suspect before a magistrate. He admitted having killed Dr. Goel. He also revealed that Dr Goel's brother Suresh masterminded the killing.
Suresh, however, had died in early November 2003. The suspect also named others.
Three months ago, more than two years after the murder, Indian police arrested another three men including son-in-law Narendra Goel. Formal murder charges have yet to be laid.
While he welcomed the arrests, Goel said that the case is far from being fully solved unless "all parties involved are brought to justice and be made responsible to the fullest extent of the law."
"There are still people out there who know the details of this crime," Goel said.
The Goel family had set up an elaborate website (www.ashagoel.ca) to gather support in their campaign to pressure the Indian government to see through the case.
They have also put up an email address (email@example.com) to accept tips and leads.
The family is offering a reward of one million Indian rupees (about C$26,000) for information that would crack the case wide open.
Goel said his mother spent her teenage years in Mumbai. She graduated from Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai.
The family has set up a scholarship there in her name, which will go to a deserving female student each year.
Medicine is a cornerstone for the Goel family. Dr. Goel was chief obstetrician at the Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville, Ontario where her husband Dr. S.K. Goel is a surgeon.
Goel said his mother "chose Canada for her home, as the place she would raise her family and practice her discipline.
She was a Canadian citizen, and was proud to contribute to a health care system that is both compassionate and competent. She was also a child of India, one who never forgot or forsook her roots."
Goel is preparing for his next trip to Mumbai next February, the 15th time he will be returning to the city where his mother was murdered.
"There's not a single day that I don't weep for my mother,” he said.