All that cops have been able to size up so far is that Sanjay Banerjee - deputy commissioner of police with Maharashtra ATS - was in an inebriated state, when he whipped out his service revolver and pumped bullets into his head while having lunch with his wife and two pre-teen sons at Goa Portugesa restaurant in Thane on Saturday.
The reason behind the DCP’s disturbing act, though, is still not clear. While senior police officials are conjecturing that a family dispute may have been the trigger, relatives have cited workload as a possible provocation. Investigations so far have revealed that on the fateful day, Banerjee had consumed alcohol at home as well as at the hotel. A close family friend said that the couple was very reticent and didn’t speak to others, even family members, about personal matters.
Rita Roy, mother-in-law of the deceased and a resident of Nagpur, said, “He was a dynamic figure - like a tiger in nature and personality. I was at my home when I got a call from a relative saying that Sanjay had been admitted to a hospital. Not being told the reason, I was very anxious and kept on calling several people but got no response. Later, I was told by a family member that he had shot himself. I went into a state of shock. At first, I thought Sanjay had shot some notorious gangster, but finally the truth dawned on me.” Roy landed in the city last evening.
For the last four years, Banerjee had been residing with his wife Aishwarya, and sons Arjun (12) and Ashutosh (7), at Omkar Building in Hiranandani Estate, Thane. “It is frightening to even imagine someone shooting himself before you. He killed himself in the presence of his two little kids. Seven-year-old Ashutosh is the most shaken up.” Ashutosh studies in class III at a school in Hiranandani Estate, while Arjun is a Std IX student at a boarding school in Panchgani.
“Ashutosh has his annual examinations in April. But how will he be able to appear for them now? He is currently in a very terrified state,” said a family member, adding, “The scene at the funeral, which took place in Wagle Estate yesterday, was heartrending. Whenever a relative would approach Ashutosh, the boy enacted how his father placed a gun to his head and shot himself.”
Banerjee’s father, ex-SRPF commandant Anilkumar Banerjee, who’s a resident of Pune, said, “I still cannot believe that my son committed suicide. He was a dashing officer. He was posted in the anti-terrorism squad and he loved working there. Just two days ago, he had called me up and asked why I did not come to his house. The rest of the conversation was like a conventional father-son discussion. There were no indications that he was in depression of any sort.”
Sources say DCP Banerjee had not received his salary for a long time. “He had not been paid for the last eight months,” said his father. A colleague said, “Banerjee had written 10 letters to senior officials about his remuneration.” The deceased’s father added, “Not getting his salary on time is unlikely to be the cause of the suicide. There has to be some other explanation. I want to know what caused my son to take such an extreme step.” “The condition of my daughter is pitiable. Since the incident, she has not had any food, has hardly taken a few sips of water, and has not uttered a single word,” said Rita Roy.
Police are yet to record the statements of the wife and kids, as they are still extremely upset. A senior-level police officer from Thane region said, “We are investigating the case from all possible angles. That he committed suicide in front of his wife and two little kids is shocking. We have found that Banerjee had consumed whisky at home on Saturday morning. He also had a few drinks at the restaurant. So, at the time of the incident, he was in an inebriated state. We suspect that a family dispute may have spurred the extreme step.”