When Santipada Banerjee returned from London in 1994, to spend the last years of his life in his hometown, he had definitely not bargained for what lay in store.
A few years after buying two flats in a Behala residential complex (Oxford View), the 82-year-old is now being pestered by the promoter — who sold him those flats — to vacate them “immediately” as they were “not sold at all”.
Banerjee and Arvind Meharia, director of Nilanchal Estates Private Ltd, are now locked in a legal battle. But Banerjee says he is not worried about the case in court; he would rather have the police protect him from the “other methods” that Meharia is allegedly using, ranging from snapping his phone lines to stopping the garbage-disposal man from picking up the refuse.
Meharia, however, denies every charge. “Allegations like these keep pouring in,” he claims. “Besides, the flats were sold so long back that I shouldn’t have any interest in them now.”
Banerjee, according to the documents with him, bought two fourth-floor flats of the Behala complex, in 1994. But, in June 1998, he received a letter from his promoter that asked him to vacate them. Banerjee lodged a complaint with Thakurpukur police station a few days later, but when nothing moved, he lodged a case in 1999.
Even as things were moving in court, a second flank of confrontation opened up for Banerjee — this time on the home front. In 2001, the supply of electricity and water was cut off, and his telephone line snapped. The essential services were restored following a complaint with the cops, but Banerjee, apprehending further trouble, moved the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, which instructed the police to ensure that “no breach of the peace” took place.
Peace is what Banerjee has found elusive at Oxford View, where he lives alone in the two flats. Wife Maya Banerjee (an associate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) died two years ago, his younger son left home after his mother’s death, and the elder son works in Japan.
Soon, Banerjee started receiving threats over the phone. “The calls have gradually become more and more frequent,” he alleges. Banerjee’s connection to the common generator in the complex was snapped, followed by the intercom link with the security kiosk. The garbage kept in plastic bags outside the door has also been piling up.
The guards refuse to open the gates for his car and his letters are never delivered. “I get down from the car to open the gates myself,” says Banerjee. “And my electricity and telephone bills are torn up, along with my letters,” he adds. Visitors are told that he doesn’t live here anymore.
“I never imagined that I would go through such a nightmare in the twilight of my life,” says the frail old man, who travelled the world as a structural engineer. “I suspect that I am a soft target for the promoter as I am old, infirm and alone,” he sighs.
Promoter Meharia says “everything will be settled in court”, while Shyamal Ghosh, officer-in-charge, Thakurpukur police station, promises action if there is a “specific complaint”.