Chitra Nandi, Jyotirmoy’s mother, climbs the steps of Hare Street police station to see her son. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Dec. 4: A septuagenarian mother stepped into a police station in the heart of Calcutta today and came face to face with a man clad in an ill-fitting khaki shirt and a pair of shorts.
Khaki at Hare Street police station this afternoon was not the colour of power but of helplessness of the individual against the might of the state.
Chitra Nandi, 73, was staring at her son Jyotirmoy, 47, labelled as the “conspirator” in a plot to set Writers’ Buildings on fire and locked up since Saturday. Since then, it has emerged that Jyotirmoy had been hired to spray insecticide on a floor of Writers’.
As the mother held her son’s hands, he broke down. “Amar jibon sesh hoye gelo. Ami ekhon ki korbo? Keu bollo na amar dosh kothay (My life has been ruined. What will I do now? No one told me what my fault was),” Jyotirmoy said, after he had collected himself.
“This is genuinely a false case…,” a senior officer in Lalbazar told The Telegraph later, oblivious of the oxymoronic choice of words but articulating a feeling that appeared to be widespread at the Calcutta police headquarters located less than a kilometre from the police station.
At Hare Street police station, a squirming policeman tried to pacify the mother and son. “Don’t worry, you may get bail tomorrow,” he said.
Tomorrow is December 5, a day earlier than December 6 when Jyotirmoy’s police custody was scheduled to have ended and he would have been produced in court.
Under normal circumstances, the police would have asked for another spell of custody of a suspect charged with such a grave crime as plotting to set the seat of power ablaze.
However, police sources said word reached them this forenoon that efforts should be made to release the pest controller at the earliest. So, the police are trying to take him to court tomorrow, instead of on Friday. The police are not expected to oppose his bail plea.
It will now depend on the court whether Jyotirmoy will be released or not.
However, the police were non-committal on how they would proceed with the case. Some sources suggested that a “far lighter” charge could be slapped on him as a face-saving measure.
If such a charge is invoked, the government is certain to run into charges that one grave injustice is being covered up with another.
The Hare Street policeman’s assurance on possible bail was the first visible sign of penance from a force that arrested the pest controller four days ago over the “kerosene” conspiracy.
“The arrest is a loss of face for us,” said the same senior officer who had spoken of the genuine nature of the falsity of the case. “There is instruction from higher-ups that he cannot be kept behind bars any more. The court remanded him in police custody till Friday. But he will be produced in the court tomorrow and we will not oppose his bail plea,” added the officer.
The wheels began turning apparently after home secretary Basudeb Banerjee, whose statement on the alleged conspiracy had prompted the police to arrest Jyotirmoy, met an officer of the department that was fumigated.
Bismay Rai, the registrar of the home publication department, said after the meeting: “I told the home secretary that I had hired him for pest control and I was sure that he did not have any ulterior motive…. I had said the same thing to the police after his arrest.”
According to the sources, the police commissioner later received instructions from the home department to scale down the charges against Jyotirmoy and ensure his release on bail as early as possible.
Home secretary Banerjee was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.
Jyotirmoy’s mother Chitra today mustered the courage to visit the high court and met a lawyer who agreed to fight the legal battle free. Then, accompanied by her daughter, she reached the police station around 3.30pm to meet her son. As the instruction to go easy had reached the police station by then, the police showed leniency and arranged a meeting of the mother and the son in a room meant for sergeants.
“The administration should acknowledge that it had made a mistake and withdraw the case…. That will allow him to walk free with his head held high. Even if they press a weaker charge, that will not give him a clean chit as the case will drag on,” said a lawyer.
The lawyer expressed the fear that the stigma might come in the way of future assignments for Jyotirmoy. “Had it been the West, rights organisations would have ensured that the state paid a hefty compensation,” he added.