Nandanben Jethwa (62), mother of slain RTI activist Amit Jethwa, is grateful for the special CBI court’s judgment on Thursday, which came exactly after nine years if she goes by the tithi (lunar) calendar. But for her, what matters is — Mera beta toh wapas nahi aayega, naa (My son won’t return, right)?
Nandanben, lives in Ankleshwar with Amit’s children — Aarohi Jethwa (18) and Arjun Jethwa (16), her youngest son Bhavin (36) and Bhavin’s wife. “For years after Amit’s death, I wished to stop existing. But then I had to live and keep going on for the sake of Aarohi and Arjun. I decided I’ll live for Amit’s children, not even for my children,” she says between sobs. Amit’s wife lives in Dubai.
Nandanben has been taking care of Amit’s children since they were nine and seven years old.
“We moved to Ankleshwar three years ago for their education, after Aarohi completed her Class 10. She did her Class 11 and 12 from here. Later she prepared for NEET for a year in Ahmedabad. Now, Arjun has completed Class 10 and is preparing for engineering. Once both of them are settled, I’ll move back to my village,” she says. Bhavin moved to Ankleshwar in 2007 for job.
Her village means Khamba at Amreli, where her husband, Bhikabhai, lives at present. While Bhikabhai waged a lonely and tedious legal battle for nine years, he tried his best to insulate the rest of his family members from the turmoil. Bhikabhai originally is from Kodinar where the convicted ex-MP Dinu Solanki belongs.
“We were supposed to go to the court today. We had booked our tickets too. But Bhikhabhai made us cancel it. He said it won’t be safe, there would be Dinu’s men. He told me, ‘why do you want to see his face?’ We cancelled our tickets then,” she says.
The children barely bring up the topic of their father’s death and Aarohi seems fearless. “There was a classmate in school (Ankleshwar). His father was a partner in Dinu’s sugar factory. When he got to know I’m Amit Jethwa’s daughter, he told me one day, ‘You will lose. We have money and more power. The verdict will be against you’.
Look at us today. Bottom line is, they couldn’t turn the judgment in their favour despite their money and power. That says a lot,” says Aarohi.
Aarohi and Arjun make sure that their grandmother does not watch the news, especially Thursday. “They let me watch it once when the judgment came. They don’t talk about Amit but I know they miss him. Aarohi has had a headache since afternoon. She brushed it off as a regular thing but I know it is because she has been tensed about the judgment,” says Nandanben.
Bhavin says he is glad about the judgment but for Nandanben “it hardly makes any difference”. Both agree on one thing. “Harden Pandya, who was a BJP minister, it took him 18 years or so to get justice. That way we were lucky as we had to wait only for nine years.”
Amit, the eldest son of Nandanben, was the apple of her eye. “I gave up everything. I stopped wearing sindoor. I stopped attending functions. In the past nine years, I’ve only attended Bhavin’s marriage last month and another close relative’s function. It has been hard. I never went back to Ahmedabad after his death, except for one court hearing. Amit never wanted to go to Ahmedabad, but his wife wanted to, which is why he moved there. I still dream of him and wake up in cold sweat.”
Amit married when he was 22 years old and moved to Ahmedabad in 2009. His stay in the city was cut short in 11 months when he was shot point blank on July 20, 2010. When Amit died, the two kids were too young to comprehend the gravity of it.
Nandanben reminisces, “Arjun’s birthday is on July 22. He didn’t understand what was going on and went asking his mother for cake that day. We just asked him what would be his last message to his father, if he had to send him one. He replied, ‘tell him to get chocolates’ and started crying inconsolably. He was only seven then.”
The family agrees that the compensation barely matters to them now. “We are comfortable financially. What we had to go through is irreparable. Aarohi’s medical entrance exam preparation for a year cost us Rs 3.5 lakh, so what will I do with their Rs 3 lakh? But what about my son? My life now entirely revolves around these two and to see them independent,” says Nandanben.