“‘Tula sangayche ahe kahi tari’ (I want to share something with you).” This was Charrudatta Deshpande’s words to his close family friend Veena Gavankar (70) and her husband Chandrakant (78), as he sat down to lunch at her Vasai bungalow, on the afternoon of June 28. Hours later, he was found hanging in his ground floor flat just down the road.
Charru, a former chief of Corporate Affairs and Communication at Tata Steel, had phoned Gavankar around 11.30 am on Friday, after reaching Vasai Gaon, and insisted on meeting her. She visited him at his apartment in Pant Nagari Society.
Veena, who is a writer, recalled, “That day Charru was not the same man who cracked jokes and spoke openly. He looked disturbed and would reply only to the questions that were put forward to him. He told me that he had come to clear some society maintenance dues and we sat on the divan in his front room. He was about to narrate something, when suddenly the power went off. Since he did not have an inverter connection, I suggested he come to my place and join me for lunch. He agreed,” said Veena.
Like many of Charru’s close friends and family members, the Gavankars too find it hard to believe that Charru took his own life.
“We have known him for over 40 years, and we know he could never commit suicide. He was strong mentally to handle any pressure. But something was bothering him, ever since he returned to Mumbai from Jamshedpur on May 25, after resigning from Tata Steel. Since then, he had hinted many times to me that he would share something important; but unfortunately the day never came.”
A week before his death, Charru invited Veena to his Borivli residence, where he made an attempt to speak to her, saying, “I made a mistake, I should not have gone to Jamshedpur. I should not have taken the job, I do not like their work culture.”
According to Veena, Charru was initially very happy after he joined Tata Steel, Jamshedpur last year. “He even invited the Gavankar couple to stay with him in Jamshedpur. All this changed soon. In April, he came home and informed me that he was resigning as he was not happy. He was also seeking advice from my son, an IT consultant, about an alternate career.”
After lunch at 1 pm, I accompanied Charru in his car to his residence. Charru opened the door, and standing at the entrance, I asked him, how long he would wait at home. He promptly replied that he would take 10-15 minutes. I took spare keys from him and his driver dropped me to my residence at 1.05 pm,” said Veena, adding, “I handed him a candle asking him to give a good rub to the main door frame, as it had become creaky in the rain”.
Around 3.30 pm, Charru’s wife Nivedita (50) phoned Veena, saying that Charru was not responding to calls, and that she was worried. Even the driver had said that he was still at Vasai, and that Sir was not answering the doorbell. Chandrakant accompanied the driver with the spare keys. Reaching Charru’s residence, he found the door was bolted from inside. “We informed the police and with the help of painters working at my house, broke open the window. To our shock, we found him hanging in the passage. The local doctor from a nearby hospital was called in, who declared him dead,” said Chandrakant.
Though an offence was registered under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the task of handling the case has been given to police constables – R S Nikumbhe of Vasai Road police station are investigating the case. Even five days after the incident, they have not been able to activate Charru’s iPad, which might hold crucial clues. No call data has been collected nor any letter sent to Charu’s mobile service provider till yesterday to ascertain the names of those people who had phoned Charru in the days prior to his death.
Superintendent of Police Anil Kumbhare, when informed that a constable is probing the matter, refuted the claims, saying, “A police constable cannot be the investigating officer, he can only assist a police officer, who might be supervising the matter.” Regarding the delay in collection of evidence, he said, “I will have to look into the case papers and only then reply.”
Scene of crime?
Charru Dutt had occupied flat 1 on the ground floor of Pant Nagri building for last five to six years. The double bedroom flat is done up well, with air-conditioning in both rooms. The small passage connecting the bedrooms passing through the kitchen has a cast-iron chair below a small fan. According to the police, Charru, who is approximately 155 cm in height, used this chair to reach the fan. His shirt is still on the kitchen counter. He was wearing a vest and trousers when he was hanging. His slippers were still on his feet. A speaker and the AC were switched on in the apartment. Police claim while the wings of the fan were intact, the cup on the fan was broken, owing to the strain of his weight. He would use the rope found around his neck for Yoga.
Questions loom large
While the autopsy has concluded that the cause of death was ‘asphyxia in a case of hanging,’ many unanswered questions still will need to be answered by the investigators.
>> Why the police did not call the forensic team to inspect the scene of crime?
>> Why did the medical officer from Primary Health Centre, Vasai not insist for photography and preserved the viscera for chemical analysis to rule out any foulplay?
>> Why did the police not send Charru’s phone and iPad to the Kalina forensic laboratory for testing?
>> Why was the crime scene not preserved? The broken windowpane and grill gives easy access to the flat.
>> Why did Charru phone Gavankar’s family that morning and agreed for lunch, if he had come prepared to kill himself?
>> What happened in Jamshedpur?
>> Why was Charru not able to speak out to his close friends?
>> Why did Charru did not leave any suicide note?
The other side
Tata Sons in a statement stated that a committee chaired by Ishaat Hussain, Non-Executive Director of Tata Steel, and including NS Rajan, the group’s Chief Human Resources Officer, and Bharat Vasani, the Group General Counsel, has been constituted to ascertain the facts of the case. Mukund Rajan will also be a part of the panel as Chief Ethics Officer.
“The committee has been mandated to convey its findings direct to the Board of Tata Steel within the next two months,” the statement said.