When a young boy peeping out of a balcony of his house at SB Enclave housing society in Tingrenagar was asked if he knew Chaitanya Balpande, he quickly said, “Yes, he was my friend. We used to play cricket together. He is dead.”
These days, the housing society that has just six flats wears an abandoned look. A large notice board outside the society pays a tribute to the boy whose murder has shocked neighbours, with many unwilling to talk about the incident. Balpande’s next-door neighbour on the second floor says that she was not in Pune when the incident took place and was not on talking terms with Rakhee, who worked as an HR executive with a private company in Wakdewadi area.
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Another neighbour, who has been residing in the same building for the past four years, said that Rakhee had stopped talking to everyone in the society . “I had seen the boy grow up and he was a normal child. Often, I would see him playing with kids in the society. Through his grandmother, we learnt that he was being ill-treated by his mother. He had stopped coming out of the house as he used to be locked up. Around 10 days before he died, I had visited their house to meet his grandmother as she was leaving. That was the last time I saw him,” she says.
“Even if we had the slightest of hint that things would worsen, we would have surely done something to save Chaitanya,” said the neighbour.
Smita Londhe, principal, Pune International School, where Chaitanya studied from Class I to Class VI, remembers Chaitanya as a quiet boy but someone who would mix up with everyone. “He was an average student,” she says.
Talking about his physical deformity, she adds, “He would walk on his toes and couldn’t rest his feet on the floor completely. However, despite the deformity, he could walk, run and even play with his friends.”
“This year, Chaitanya was supposed to go in Class VII. However, he did not turn up after the school re-opened on June 15. The school sent a reminder notice to his mother, but she did not respond,” said the principal.
Assistant commissioner of police Swapna Gore of the Khadki division said the probe has revealed that Chaitanya’s mother had planned the murder with Sumit More, who has an affair with her. “He has been arrested. We are trying to ascertain whether he was present when the boy was beaten with a bat. We have also found out that Rakhee used to lock up and starve her son, who sometimes used to ask for food from neighbours.”
A few days ago, a section of media had reported that Rakhee could have murdered her son for insurance money. ACP Gore said, “As of now, we have not come across any facts that would corroborate this. We do not know whether there was any insurance policy, but will scrutinise documents if they are found.”
(inputs from Sushant Kulkarni)