The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parekhs home in dignity of private grief
- Fourteen years after tragedy, still silent in Santa Cruz apartment block

Mumbai, July 2: The Parekhs did not speak in 1993 when the death sentence was handed to Dhananjoy Chatterjee. They did not speak in all the 10 years the sentence remained unexecuted.

Now that the home ministry has sent its report to the President, apparently recommending the request for clemency to Dhananjoy — who raped and killed 14-year-old Hetal Parekh in 1990 — be rejected, they have chosen to stay behind the curtain of silence which guards their private grief.

“We have not spoken about this for all these years… today is no different,” Archana Parekh, daughter-in-law of the family, says.

“Please leave us alone,’’ she adds, quickly taking the stairs to their first-floor home at Jamuna Mahal, an apartment in Prabhat Colony opposite the railway station at Santa Cruz (east).

Within 15 days of the tragedy in their Calcutta home, Hetal’s father Nagardas Parekh moved his wife and young son out of the city.

It took him another four months to wind up his Canning Street shop of gift items and sell the flat in Anand Apartment at Padmapukur in south Calcutta to set up home in Mumbai.

“We will not seek anyone’s help, we will not condemn or comment on anyone. Whatever has to be done is being done. Our only request to people is to let us be.”

Sheltering her in-laws from probing questions, Archana thrusts herself in front and says no one else is around.

“They are not here and they don’t want to speak about the case. Nobody wants to. Why don’t you understand this simple thing'” she asks.

“Please leave,” she tells what to a family that has grieved with anonymous dignity are but intruders.

The Parekhs have requested the secretary of the housing society not to allow anyone who is not their relative to visit them.

Archana loses her cool when someone mentions Dhananjoy’s name. “Why did you take his name in my house'” she demands, shaking with rage.

Those who know the family say the Parekhs have remained unmoved — at least publicly — through the latest twists in the case. Dhananjoy’s death sentence hangs in balance with the President still to announce his opinion.

“They are a good family,” says Bubli Shetty, a neighbour at Jamuna Mahal. “We interact with them quite regularly… but about this case… you will hear nothing from them.”

Others said that in all these years the Parekhs have dealt with their tragedy within the confines of their home. “Only now have we come to know that this is Hetal’s family,” another neighbour said.

“They haven’t mentioned the subject in over 14 years. I think if they want to be left alone, they should be. It is their way of dealing with the loss. They are still shattered.”

A cousin of the Parekh’s who doesn’t want to be named says it has taken the family a long time to come to terms with the incident which crushed their lives on March 5, 1990. “I do think that death should be the punishment for such crimes and that the family would feel somewhat vindicated if that happens. Hetal was only a baby when it happened. There has to be a lesson in it for people who commit such crimes. The judiciary has to send the right message.”

As Siddhraj, the guard, escorts the intruders out of the iron gates of Jamuna Mahal, Archana looks down from the top of the staircase. Her anguished eyes show signs of relief before she rushes back into her flat with her six-year-old daughter who has just returned from school.

The little girl turns and smiles before she is pulled away.

(With inputs from Calcutta Bureau)

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