| DESPERATE HOURS: Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s father Banshidhar at his Chhatna home on Friday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
The sun has disappeared over Chhatna. Dark clouds and continuous rain since Thursday have compounded the gloom that has enveloped the Chhatna–Jamdoba areas, on the Purulia-Bankura border, as Dhananjoy Chatterjee goes to the gallows.
With nine hours to go, father Banshidhar Chatterjee, a devotee of Kali, could not accept the fact that his son would be executed even before the sun would rise over Chhatna on Saturday.
“You will see, the hangman’s noose will tear at the last moment,” said Banshidhar. Throughout Friday, he performed puja at the village Kali temple, of which he is the priest. A bit of rice is all that he had, as if more to sustain his prayers.
Mother Belarani and Dhananjoy’s younger sister were taken ill on Friday. Belarani was lying listless on the floor and had to be administered glucose by doctors from the Chhatna block hospital. Dhananjoy’s sister even fainted once in the afternoon.
In a last desperate bid to save Dhananjoy from death, his mother, wife Purnima and brother Bikash sent three separate faxes on Friday to the President of India.
“Your honour, I am a poor woman, I beseech you to save my husband from hanging… I have no children, please spare a thought as to how I would live the rest of my life without my husband. There is just nobody to look after me,” pleaded Purnima in her appeal.
Around 2 pm, superintendent of police Anil Kumar visited Kuludih and inquired about the health of the family.
His appearance opened a floodgate of emotions, with the family members falling at his feet, crying and pleading that he save Dhananjoy. “There is nothing I can do now,” said Kumar.
He later spoke to deputy superintendent of police Prasanta Dey, who is in charge of a 30-man force posted in Kuludih.
Around 7.30 pm, district magistrate G.A. Khan met Dhananjoy’s family to persuade them one last time to leave for Calcutta in time to be able to receive the body after the hanging. When the family refused to respond, Khan faxed a message to this effect to the chief secretary at Writers’ Buildings.
Even as Dhananjoy’s loved ones harboured hopes of a miracle, residents of Chhatna town and beyond rallied to express their sympathy.
Two businessmen, Rukumuddin Sheikh and Sanjoy Chatterjee, came on a motorcycle all the way from Dhulian, 260 km from Kuludih. They met the family and handed over a cheque for Rs 2,001 to mother Belarani.
But mercy for her son, not monetary aid, was what Belarani was seeking on Friday.