The last time 65-year-old Harjeet saw his son Happy Singh alias Harpreet was when he was produced at the Tis Hazari courts in Delhi a few months ago. Happy, who was serving a life term in Kolkata’s Presidency jail, had told his father he would be released in less than a year, having already served 13 years for the abduction of a shoe baron in 2001.
Thrilled about his son’s imminent release, over the last few weeks, Harjeet had been busy looking for a bride for Happy. He said, “I have a father who is 90 years old and a mother who is 89. I cannot walk because of spondylitis. All of us are bed-ridden. When Happy told us that he was going to be released, we thought we would find him a wife. We thought he would start a new life and there would be someone to look after us… Everything is gone now.”
On May 5, Harjeet received a call from an official of Presidency jail informing him that his son had died. He was killed by a fellow inmate, Harjeet was told.
That one call killed all hopes the family had of a better future. But they are reluctant to pursue the case. “My son is gone. What good is going to come of a police investigation? They say he was beaten to death by a fellow prisoner. If this is true, then the murderer is still in jail,” he said.
The two-room house at Trinagar’s Lekhu Nagar is the one from which Happy was arrested in 2001 for the abduction of shoe baron Partha Roy Burman, a case in which Aftab Ansari, an alleged mafia don, was the main accused.
Three years after his conviction, Happy had asked his brother-in-law to send him the Constitution of India. These two volumes, apart from a few other things, are all that his family have to remember him by. The family had migrated to Delhi in the 80s from Bombay (Mumbai), where Happy was born. Happy’s two sisters are now married and stay in Tilak Nagar and Karol Bagh.
There is no one to care for Happy’s aged father and grandparents on a daily basis. “We order food from a nearby dhaba, as there is no one here to cook. My daughters look after us,” Harjeet said.
On Thursday morning, Happy’s brothers-in-law brought Happy’s body back to the city for cremation, which was was attended by about a hundred Trinagar residents. The final rites completed, the neighbours returned to their homes while Harjeet’s son-in-law dropped him home, put him to bed next to his 90-year-old father. “We are counting the days,” he could be heard murmuring.