| ADDRESS DISTRESS: Three-year-old Tanisha Mukherjee, whose grandfathers are in court, battling for her custody. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Her mother is dead. Her father is behind bars. And three-year-old Tanisha Mukherjee is caught in the crossfire between her two grandfathers.
In April, Mausumi Mukherjee committed suicide, allegedly driven to her death by the torture inflicted on her by husband Tapas and his family. Tapas is now in jail.
The fate of little Tanisha, who lives with her paternal grandparents in Behala, is locked in a custody battle being fought by her grandfathers in court.
Mausumi’s father Pranab Basu is battling to bring Tanisha away from the Mukherjee home in Behala. “I want her to leave the vitiated atmosphere that claimed her mother’s life, and come to stay with us in Chakdah,” says Basu.
Tapas’s father Anil Mukherjee is contesting this, claiming that Tanisha has been living in Behala since birth and is “most comfortable” there.
On Wednesday, Tanisha was brought before the division bench of Justice D.P. Sengupta and Justice S.P. Mitra in Calcutta High Court.
The judges, after examining the case, chose “not to interfere” in the matter. “That would traumatise the child even further,” they observed. “We do not want to disturb the child at this moment as, she has been staying with her (paternal) grandfather ever since she was born... We do not want her to be troubled even more.”
The judges, however, told petitioner Basu that he could move a lower court for custody of the child and report back to the bench on June 4.
“Can we please hold our grandchild in our arms for a few minutes in court and feel our daughter living in her'” pleaded Mausumi’s parents. The judges granted their plea.
Tanisha sat through all this with a smile, oblivious to the battle raging around her.
Tapas and Mausumi were married in November 2002. Tanisha was born in September 2003. Mausumi’s father claims neighbours had told him Tapas would torture her.
On April 13, he received a call from Tapas, who said Mausumi had consumed poison and had been admitted to MR Bangur Hospital. Mausumi died before her parents and other family members reached the hospital.
“Basu wanted to meet Tanisha, but he was told by the Mukherjees that they did not know where she was. He then lodged a complaint with Thakurpukur police station, accusing Mausumi’s in-laws of torture and abetment to suicide,” said Sekhar Basu and Debapriya Mitra, lawyers appearing for Basu. “He also lodged a missing diary regarding Tanisha.”
On April 14, police arrested Tapas, his mother Meena and brother Tamal. Not allowed to see Tanisha, Basu filed a habeas corpus petition to meet his granddaughter.