A day of prayer, punctuated by moments of despair and hope, marked the countdown to the morning of August 14 for Dhananjoy Chatterjee.
Dhananjoy woke up early on Wednesday in his condemned cell at Alipore Central jail and made it clear that this was to be his day of prayer.
After a bath, he sent a message to the jail authorities, through a senior officer on duty, to arrange some fruits and sweets for him, instead of tea and biscuits.
“Aaj ekadoshi. Aami uposh korbo (Today, I’ll be on a fast). I shall not eat anything and spend the day chanting slokas and offering prayers to Goddess Kali. Fasting on this auspicious day will give me strength and help me escape the gallows,” Dhananjoy told the warders guarding his cell.
Going by the wishes of the condemned man, fruits and sweets were sent to his cell by 6 am, along with a basket of flowers. “We all sat silently in front of Dhananjoy’s cell as he started praying after arranging the fruits and sweets in ritualistic order,” said one of the warders.
Till noon, Dhananjoy remained rapt in prayer. But that was broken by news that his lawyer, Jaymalya Bagchi, had been denied permission to meet him.
“Dhananjoy looked very depressed when we told him that his lawyer had left the jail in a huff (for Delhi) after being denied permission to meet him,” said one of the warders.
Till late afternoon, he looked desolate and did not eat anything, warders said. “Around 5 pm, Dhananjoy broke down and said that there was no escape from the gallows. We saw him pacing his cell nervously. He kept on asking if any news had come from Delhi about the petition his brother Bikash had moved before the Supreme Court,” jail sources said.
Around 6 pm, Dhananjoy switched on the small radio in his cell and tuned into news that the case had been admitted by the apex court for hearing on Thursday.
“That cheered him up. He broke the fast by biting into an apple, some slices of cucumber and sweets and then distributed the rest among us,” said a warder.
Deputy inspector-general of prisons Ramapada Bhattacharya, who visited Dhananjoy’s cell around 8.30 pm, said he looked all right and had not refused dinner.