This is the story in her own words to the Indian people, government, judiciary, investigation agencies, university campus, and the hope to get the justice for their son. A grieving mother in search of knowing the truth for her ever loving son, whom she’s missing at every breath.
On 06 April 2016 night, my son Neel Banerjee who was studying in Amity University, Mumbai campus in the first year of BJMC course, his dream subject, he aspired to be a journalist as a boarder, died under mysterious circumstances. The events which unfolded thereafter raised certain questions regarding the mode of death, the intentions of Amity University, and the calibre of Police Investigation that was in progress.
On 06 April night at around 2230 hrs, my husband has received a phone call from the University that my son had attempted suicide by hanging and he was being transferred to Life Line Nursing Home in Panvel. When Air Force officials contacted the Doctor on duty, he had confirmed that my son was brought in dead and the body was being sent for Post Mortem. After he reached Panvel from Coimbatore at around 1100 hrs next morning the Doctor declined to carry out Post Mortem citing the absence of physical evidence corroborating death by hanging. He brought out verbally that ligature mark was only on right side of the neck, eyes were normal and not bulging out, the tongue was inside the mouth and there was no visible distortion in the face. All these could be corroborated by the photographs taken by the Police. The doctor forwarded the case to JJ Hospital in Mumbai where forensic expertise was available. The fact that the case was transferred to JJ Medical College all the way despite the facility being available at Vassi has created apprehensions in our mind.
The officials of Amity were available at the site and were asking police about the location they were taking the body for Post Mortem. Surprisingly on my husband’s arrival, the Medical Officer who was supposed to do the Post Mortem was trying to convince him for almost half an hour about his integrity and the fact that the College was famous for an impartial investigation wherein he had not expressed any apprehensions till then. After this, his friends had an audience with the Dean who had advised them to request for an autopsy under video surveillance. Thereafter, the autopsy was done and samples were taken for further investigation. The doctor had given him the Preliminary Report, the report indicates death due to compression of neck with under scalp contusion. However, final opinion was reserved pending for chemical analysis examination report. The doctor apprised us that the report will take at least one and half months to arrive. Nowhere, the report talked about death due to hanging.
An ADR was lodged by the police on 07 April 2016 and the investigating officer was appointed. The police continuously tried to convince us that we should not think about any other option about the cause of death and wanted to hand over Neel’s belongings to us. Despite our apprehensions about foul play and before any conclusive evidence for suicide was made available, we had been handed over the belongings and the room was vacated. Incidentally, despite a webcam being available at the corridor, police had not made any effort to seize it.
Only after our insistence, the cartridge was taken by police. There was no suicide note as confirmed by police and they have only found three love letters written by three different girls. His other belongings were not even checked and we have found one more letter written from one more girl. The lackadaisical approach displayed by police could not be appreciated by us and other than seizing the mobile phone and laptop, no other forensic examination was done by police. Even the phone and laptop was not sent for tracing fingerprints. It appeared that they were in a hurry to close the case and the hypothesis of suicide was more of a convenience. The facts that the doors of the room were open for such a private act and no suicide note was found were not given due importance. They have not made any effort to chronologically sequence the events of the evening and not made any effort to pinpoint the time of death itself.
The investigating officer confirmed to my husband that Neel had entered his room at 1930 hrs and did not come out thereafter whereas Neel had his dinner till around 2045 hrs with his senior mate, and also attended the night roll call at 2200 hrs as confirmed by the warden. He was last seen on WhatsApp till 2149 hrs.
On 09 April 2016, we had been handed over the belongings and the room was vacated without examining any of the contents. Throughout our interaction with police, they were at pains to convince us that my son was depressed, that he was a loner, that he has expressed suicidal intentions wherein my son was happy, planning for his future and working hard for his future career. They have declined to accept our complain/FIR citing the absence of Post Mortem report and said that it could only be taken after the receipt of the same.
On 11 April 2016, when we visited Amity University, the authorities allowed us to meet two boys, who have discovered the body (they are the ones that confirmed death by hanging). The incident as brought out by these two boys separately to me, my wife and my colleagues at different times and also narrated by a Commander (Retd), was surprisingly in the same language, starting and ending with the same words and having the same keywords in between which only suggested tutored, preconceived responses.
Working as a psychologist for last thirteen years and having gone through thousands of responses, the effort to fabricate the truth was not lost on my husband. A student from another course who was trying to speak to us since 07 April turned hostile when we called him in presence of Amity officials. We have screenshots of him spreading rumours (through WhatsApp messages) about Neel leaving a six-page suicide note (which the police denied) and Neel searching on the internet for ways to commit suicide and ways to tie different types of knots. One girl approached us and insisted that we should go through Neel’s laptop and search history so that we might know about his efforts to search about suicide. When the laptop was already with police, how these students were privy to such information was not clear to us. Also, the suspicion that someone fiddled with his laptop/mobile after his death and before the arrival of police had also started growing in our mind.
The fact that police had not seen the body hanging, not bothered to sift through the evidence in the scene of incidence, not even considering other causes of death and trying to side with the University to spread rumours of Neel’s alleged behavioural problems are creating doubts in our minds about the fairness of police investigation. The incidence did not come in any newspaper so far and there was no condolence meeting in the University. The fact that a student of the University has died was overlooked by the authorities in most insensitive manner. Issues like ambulance having no oxygen mask, nursing assistant not accompanying the ambulance, insistence of Amity authority to take the body out of ambulance at the earliest to wash off their hands are only indications of indifference of the University to one of its students whose parents have entrusted the safety of their most prized possession in their hands.
I had spoken to many friends of Neel with an intent to gather some information about his relations with others, especially to find out any strained relations or enmity. I had penned down my apprehensions with me detailing everything with names so that these can also assist the ongoing investigation, few of which are mentioned below.
There was a classmate (girl) of Neel, who was being sexually harassed by a boy, another classmate. Neel was the only boy to stand up for her and help her lodge a written complaint through the male warden as the lady warden had refused to help her. Thereafter, the offender against whom the complaint was lodged had run away from the college and came back after a week. However, the college authorities did not take any action. The girl’s father went to the police also as confirmed by the investigating officer at police station. The girl’s parents then took her away from the college since it was not safe for her to be there. That boy was initially a good friend of Neel but when Neel came to know about his misdeeds and helped the girl, he started badmouthing him. After few days, when the girl left the college, he again approached Neel for friendship saying sorry.
My second apprehension is about a senior boy from another course. He was quite close to Neel and that girl, especially the girl in the beginning but he started drifting from Neel avoiding him after her departure. Immediately after Neel’s demise, he started messaging people that Neel had left a six-page suicide note and the initial post-mortem report indicated it was a clear suicide. The investigating officer informed us that there were no suicide notes written by Neel. The guy had also mentioned that the police had shown him the first two pages of the suicide note and the rest would be shown later. He had also informed others that in Neel’s laptop search history it was showing that he had searched for methods of suicide and even learnt how to tie knots. Which raises many questions like how does a guy know so much which even the police is not aware of? Doesn’t this say that my son’s laptop had been fiddled after he left? Isn’t it tampering of proofs?
The next day morning this boy was frantically trying to contact my husband and speak to him but he could not speak as he was busy with our child’s post-mortem and other formalities and then performing his last rites. The next time when we tried to contact him he was ready to meet us anywhere in the college or outside and help us with whatever he could. We told him that we were coming to the college to meet him and he agreed. Then within two minutes he called up and said that it won’t be correct to meet us at the college as he would have to take permission. He wanted to meet us at Panvel and told us that another boy would also come along and wanted to meet us as he was the head of a council. Again within five minutes, he called us up to say that he had been refused an out-pass and so he couldn’t come to meet us. I couldn’t believe that a twenty four year old boy was refused an out-pass on a Sunday and more than 100 students who all were much younger had been given out-passes. This was told to us by him only.
One more thing that I have noticed that in the first two calls he was sounding quite confident but in the third call he started fumbling and refused to meet us even at the college. This guy who used to claim that Neel was like his younger brother did not bother to accompany him to the hospital but was busy in spreading the rumours. When we visited the college the next day we were allowed to meet a few students and the Officer in Charge Security was constantly present when we were talking to the students. When I have asked for this boy, the another boy went out and spoke to him on phone and then called him. Even in such a painful situation, to our utter surprise and disappointment this boy entered the room with a broad smile on his face and before we could even start talking to him he started saying ‘I didn’t contact you, I didn’t even call you or wanted to meet you. You only had contacted me and wanted to speak to me’. We were so shocked with his heartless behaviour that we couldn’t even talk to him and just asked him to go away because it was very painful for us to receive such indifferent and insensitive behaviour from a boy who my son used to respect as his elder brother. Neel had mentioned his name to me earlier also. Screenshots of WhatsApp messages sent by that guy are also with us.
During my conversation with the father of the girl, it came out that after lodging the complaint, the college administration was harassing the girl and hounding her. Her mobile that contained incriminating evidence about the incident was stolen within the campus, allegedly by the Amity administration. The boy’s hostel warden who lodged the complain was removed then. After her father had transferred her to a different college, Neel became the next target. He was not allowed to appear for certain papers on the pretext of less attendance, Commander (Retd) carried out a search of Neel’s room and threatened him with rustication after finding an empty bottle of liquor which Neel declined to own up. I also came to know that there was a big fight between the boys in the same week but whether Neel was involved is not known. Apparently, that guy was aware of the incident.
That fateful night Neel had called two of his friends to his room at 11 o’clock for jamming as they had done the same on 5th night also. He had kept his hot kettle ready to be switched on to make tea and coffee for his friends as he used to do always. He had even kept snacks ready for his friends which I had made for him when he had come home for Holi. The last girl he was chatting with till 9.49 PM, had left the college the very next day morning. The college authorities had called her parents and send her away for two weeks. This remained a mystery to us, why was she sent away? Some students in the college told us that she had fainted when she heard the news; someone told me that she also had cut her wrist when she heard about Neel. We don’t know what the truth is. When I tried to contact her she said she is scared of going to the college as she can’t get over the incident, but she avoided all discussions about her chatting with Neel till his last minute. In fact, she avoided any discussion about the incident or even her close friendship with Neel.
Another student had mentioned that Neel had proposed her on that morning and she had declined. We don’t know which among all these different information about this girl is true. We only know that she was the last person to chat with him. She was at that time sitting with her friends, whom Neel had also called in his room for jamming but at 11pm. This girl claimed that she only had sent these two boys to Neel’s room to check on him at around 10 o’clock who found him in that condition, hanging and brought him down. At such a tender age kids normally get scared seeing someone hanging to death but these two apparently had the courage to react to that moment and brought my son down untying the deadly knots that had taken his life. This was what had been told to us. They said that he had used his bed sheet and one student had even informed he had tied 18 knots so they took quite some time to untie all the knots and bring him down. I bolt from who counted the knots at that moment of emergency and how is it even possible with a single bed sheet?
All his friends had mentioned about a friend who was a very close friend of Neel. He had also mentioned about her to me quite a many times. Neel used to be very bothered about her broken family and used to discuss with me. She used to cook delicacies for him and bring since my son was very fond of eating good food. They were real good friends but apparently they had a big fight on 31st and were not speaking to each other. I tried contacting her also but she was not ready to talk much about him now. Just said that she was sorry for us about whatever has happened and I should speak to the male warden for any information and the boys.
It is difficult to admit that a boy who was planning to die since morning (as we were asked to believe), was absolutely cheerful as his normal self during the dinner at around 8.45/9 PM. Then he called his friends over for jamming, made arrangement for tea, coffee and even snacks, chatted with his friend till 9.49 PM, attended and signed for night roll call and then hanged himself leaving the door of his room open and putting on music from some latest album in his laptop. By 10 everything was over? Was this a situation narrated to us match with real possibilities? Was it to be believed with a logical mind? He was very happy and excited that he had bagged an internship for photography for the entire summer vacation. He chatted with me on 5th night about it. He wished his father happy birthday on that same evening informing him about his internship with full excitement. Then he jammed with his friends throughout the night. Next day morning he wished his friend at Gandhinagar happy birthday. At around 12.15 he had uploaded a funny video on Facebook and now his so called friends, on whom he had lot of faith are giving us different stories about his signs of being depressed the whole day.
Like for the first time he had walked up to the roadside tea stall in his boxers and sat there for 4-5 hrs drinking 10 cups of tea. Some film shooting was going on of his batch and when someone asked him ‘why aren’t you coming for the shooting?’ he had replied ‘my main shooting will be tonight’. No one bothered to inform the college authorities about this, the authorities never bothered to check why this boy, who was quite a prominent student of the class was missing from the shoot, they never bothered to send someone and check about his absence or punish him for not attending an official event without any prior information. He has always been a very helpful child. He was very happy because this was his dream subject and he was doing quite well in it as his creative self was satisfied.
Initially he was studying Engineering for a year but he did not like the subject and was still craving for Mass Communication and Journalism. So he had a heart to heart talk with his father about changing his subject for which his father readily agreed because for him nothing was more important than his son’s happiness. So college hunting had started extensively in Mumbai. Since no other college had hostel facility and my husband didn’t want our son to stay in a Paying Guest Accommodation for security reasons we decided on Amity, thinking that our child would be safe there. Our child’s safety was looked after so well that we lost him forever. When they had taken him to the hospital in their ambulance which was a shabbily maintained Maruti van, it didn’t even have an oxygen cylinder or mask. He was taken by a few students and the nursing assistant did not accompany the ambulance. She was sent separately later on as an afterthought. After he had been refused by the first hospital they had taken him to some govt hospital and left him in the vehicle itself in which he was lying with his legs folded. The calls were coming up frequently to empty the ambulance after leaving my son’s body there, without making any arrangement. They didn’t want to waste time being there for a dead business, they were in hurry to get back to their comfort zone. We hand over our life to these so called famous, expensive institutions expecting a bright future of our children along with their safety and this is how they are looked after, just as one of the businesses?
On 11 Jul 16, we have been given a copy of Post Mortem Notes which bring out an antemortem injury ‘under scalp contusion size 12cm X 8cm scalp deep in the left parietal region, dark red in colour. On seeing this and after a lot of persuasions, they have finally called for a forensic team which has not reported till now. My concern is to put attention towards this incident and bring into the notice of other parents lest some other valuable life is lost again, to realise the University to refrain from interfering with the ongoing investigation and to ensure a fair investigation by a senior ranking and experienced police officer so that the truth emerges about this unfortunate incident.
(This story has been written by Tanuka Bandopadhyaya which came to us through the).
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