The curious case of Abesh Dasgupta’s death has all but fallen off the map of Kolkata where many are now waiting eagerly to see — for the first time in their lives — a Durga with thousand hands.
Except one, one of India’s top tabla players, Subhen Chatterjee, who lives in hope of justice and keeps making the rounds of police headquarters and forensic labs. He also pushes regular updates on the social media to keep the heat on the cops probing the mysterious death of the 17-year-old in July this year. Chatterjee is confident he will get justice because he believes the teenager was killed, and that the incident of a broken bottle slashing through an important nerve of the body and causing bleeding was not the right cause of death.
Chatterjee, who keeps an extremely hectic schedule performing all over India and abroad, says he will not let the case trudge away like it happened in the 2007 case of Rizwanur Rehman, a young computer teacher whose body was found close to the railway track. Rehman was believed to be murdered by hired killers because he married a rich industrialist’s daughter.
Interestingly, Abesh’s mother, like Rizwanur’s mother, Kishwar Jehan, met up with the state CM seeking justice.
Jehan’s words to the then CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya: “Mujhey insaaf chahiye” that translates into “I want justice” made banner headlines the next day in Kolkata but the case remains far from resolved. Like Jehan, Abesh’s mother Rimjhim Dasgupta, was assured of justice by CM Mamata Banerjee.
Chatterjee says he is aware that this one — like Rizwanur Rehman’s case — could be influenced by a section of very powerful people in Kolkata but he is not bothered.
“I will not let this slip through. I am in touch with Abesh’s family, especially his mother, and we will ensure justice prevails,” says Chatterjee, sitting at his expansive South Kolkata home.
“Everyone seems to know who is the killer except the cops,” says Chatterjee, whose version of the incident differs considerably from the one offered by the cops to the city’s journalists.
Chatterjee says he saw Abesh’s body full of multiple marks, on face, chest and arms. He has photographic evidence of the same and will produce it when the case reaches the court. Chatterjee is not convinced of the CCTV footage offered by the owners of the building where the incident occurred because there are too many glitches. “It is not a clean video, so how can I rely on it. I am convinced he was killed.”
The seasoned musician says he is aware that the case has — for all reasons — fallen off the map of the city that is too busy gearing up for the annual Durga Puja celebrations. Once, more than 5,000 silently marched through the streets of Kolkata seeking justice for Abesh.
Today, not many will join if a similar walk was planned.
Chatterjee says that’s his biggest challenge. “We are waiting for the forensic report and in touch with lawyers who have agreed to argue the case pro bono.”
On the face of it, the Chatterjee seems like a lone ranger in Kolkata where a number of headline-grabbing cases have fallen by the side every year. He says he is standing against some heavy odds. For purely legal reasons, he would not name anyone but says some of those involved in the case are “happily holidaying abroad”.
“There is a genuine attempt taking place in this city to brush the case under the carpet. I am trying my best not allowing it to happen. I am up against the city’s rich and powerful.”
Along with Abesh’s family members, including his uncle Suresh Thakkar, Chatterjee has made many rounds of the Kolkata Police headquarter at Lalbazar for update on the investigation.
But they have found no answers.
In the minds of Kolkata Police, Chatterjee does not exist, the case buried in files.
“The cops must stand with truth. The boy’s father was also a member of Kolkata police and an assistant director to Satyajit Ray’s son Sandip Ray, had died earlier this year,” says Chatterjee.
But cops and law go hand in hand, says Kolkata Police Joint Commissioner (Crime) Visal Garg. He says a Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) has already collected evidence from the Sunny Park residential complex where Abesh was fatally injured after being allegedly hit by an alcohol bottle.
Garg said his officers were also examining the footage from CCTV installed there and that multiple questioning has already happened in the case.
Garg continues to say now what he said in July, 2016. Going by the footages captured by the CCTVs at the complex, circumstantial evidences and statements of several witnesses, including friends of Abesh and security guards, Kolkata Police had then said the 17-year-old boy was found bleeding from multiple injuries at a residential complex in an elite South Calcutta neighbourhood. He had just attended a birthday lunch for author Amit Chaudhuri’s daughter, who lives in the same complex. And then, Abesh Dasgupta, succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital, despite Chaudhuri’s attempts to save his life.
Chatterjee refuses to accept the no conspiracy theory behind his death. To everyone in the city, including the cops, he has repeatedly claimed that it was a case of murder.
There are others supporting him, though they feel the case is almost lost. “You do not call the mother of a dead boy for questioning to the police headquarters within 24 hours of the death. It was clear right from the first day we were fighting a system, a very powerful system that was working overtime to hush up the case. It is out of people’s sight, out of people’s minds. I have almost given up hope,” says veteran painter Samir Aich, who was among those who visited Abesh’s home to express solidarity.
Aich says it pains him immensely to see such cases ending up in stiff media trials. “Once, there were daily arguments in the newsrooms of television channels, now they have happily dropped it altogether.”
Veteran Congress politician and leader of opposition in the state assembly Abdul Mannan Hossain called the case “a game of elite”.
“Money power has silenced truth of the case in Kolkata, everyone knows it. Still, no one speaks about the case, it is as good as lost even if someone goes to the court.”
It remains to be seen who the judges believe. Mannan says the process in courts in India is time consuming and cumbersome.
Chatterjee says he is ready to fight till the last. “We are artists, we often wait for visitors to fill up the hall, and then we start our performance. We do not get tired of waiting.”
Kolkata awaits, like many, one more trail, whenever it happens.