Police commissioner R.K. Pachnanda with Tapas Chowdhury’s wife and son at their house. (Sanat Kumar Sinha)
Do not spare my father’s killer. Tamal Chowdhury was categorical when he got a chance to speak with the police commissioner.
He addressed R.K. Pachnanda as “sir” but there was steel in his voice. “Sir, please make sure my father’s killer is punished. I don’t want anything else. Please ensure that he can’t come out of jail,” said the 14-year-old, when the top cop came calling at his family’s Thakurpukur home.
Then suddenly the resolve gave way to tears. Pachnanda got off his chair, placed a hand on the boy’s head and said: “Don’t cry. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that none of them gets out of prison and are punished to the fullest extent.”
The assurance rang hollow in the ears of Tapas’s wife Minati. “How can you guarantee that? All of you are visiting us today but tomorrow, you will all forget the incident and us. The killer will roam around freely. We have seen this happen several times. Today we are hurting because we have lost someone dear to us,” said Minati sitting on the bed opposite Pachnanda, surrounded by relatives and her children.
As the commissioner tried to speak, Minati continued, tears rolling down her cheeks. “My husband was ill and had sought a change in the duty roster yesterday morning. Why didn’t you allow that then? Why didn’t your men save him when he was attacked? Did he deserve this for years of loyal service?”
Pachnanda sat with his head bowed, adjusted his watch, and spoke. “He was like a family member to us too. We are sorry for his death.”
Minati looked at him, wiped her tears but did not respond as relatives sitting behind her tugged at her pallu, a signal for her to stay mum. Silence descended on the 10ft x 12ft room, packed with nine policemen and more than a dozen relatives of the Chowdhurys.
The group of senior officers had called at the Saradapally house around 2.45pm, after informing the family of the visit two hours in advance.
They had much to answer for the moment they arrived. “Where is the police minister? Where is Mamata Banerjee? Won’t she come to our place even after someone from her own force was killed?” asked Minati.
Pachnanda paused and said the chief minister was extremely worried but she could not have come because she was not in the city.
Before Minati could ask more questions, he handed her a cheque for Rs 2 lakh and promised her daughter Tanushree a job and funds for Tamal’s education.
That was not enough for the family to “forgive” the department. “My father wanted me to be a police officer, of a rank much higher than his. But after what I saw yesterday, I will work anywhere but the police department,” said Tamal, a class VIII student at Arya Vidyamandir in Behala.
For Tanushree, 20, the bullet that killed her father also destroyed her dream of becoming a professor. The first-year botany honours student at Vivekananda College has little option but to take up the job offered by the police.
“If I don’t take up the job now, my family will be ruined. I am now the head of the family and cannot escape my duties,” said Tanushree.
Her mother requested Pachnanda to ensure that she got a desk job and did not have to go out in the field like her father. The cops readily agreed.