Calcutta, June 26: Inside the condemned cell in Alipore Central Jail, Dhananjoy Chatterjee shaved a three-day beard on Friday, quietly embracing his new life. A few kilometres away, despondent residents of an apartment building groped for a way to contact the President.
The rape-and-murder convict has lived to see another weekend after the President took up a mercy petition.
Hetal Parekh’s neighbours in Padmapukur, haunted by the memory of the teenager brutalised inside her flat, are desperate to send they message to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Dhananjoy doesn’t deserve mercy.
The trauma of that evening 14 years ago still torments Kajal Bagchi, a close friend of Hetal’s mother. “It was around 4.30 pm (on March 5, 1990). Hetal had just returned after her exams. She rushed upstairs to meet Prafull Shah, wife of Suresh Shah from whom Hetal used to take tuitions. On her way, she paused and smiled at me. I asked how did the paper go and she said ‘fine’. I even saw her holding the question paper before running off,” she recalled.
She shudders to think that a few minutes later, Hetal was killed. “I saw her walk out of my building and go to her flat (next door). And then, suddenly, her mother was crying aloud…”
The teen’s mother had returned from a temple and found the door closed. Hetal was not responding.
“So we had to break open the door. I called Arjun (a resident) and we started kicking the door till it broke. Inside, the girl lay on the floor with hardly anything on her… it was an awful sight. This was around 6 pm, I still remember. Some of us rushed to Bhowanipore police station,” said Utpal Roy, a neighbour.
Investigating officer Sachi Majumder still remembers the strangulation marks on Hetal’s throat. “There was a deep injury mark on Hetal’s eyebrow, something that later helped us make out that Dhananjoy had first pushed her against a swing inside the room. It struck her on the eyebrow and made her semi-conscious. The accused took this opportunity and raped her,” Majumder recalled.
Months later, his theory was proved by the post-mortem report.
The residents who went through the Parekhs’ trauma from that afternoon are desperate to reach the President.
“We want to tell the President that if he had heard Hetal’s mother cry and her father turn dumb in grief, if only he had seen how the family remained a bundle of nerves after the incident, he would not have thought about stalling the hanging,” said Roy.
The shattered Parekhs left the city and settled down in Mumbai. Their apartment has a new owner. They didn’t know Hetal — except through the papers — but they want justice for her. Dhananjoy should pay for his grisly crime, they said.