On being contacted, Usha Das, the 70-year-old wife of Swaraj Ranjan, who was brutally murdered along with his son Anup by Vijay Palande 14 years ago, said: “I do not want to recollect that horror again.”
On some insistence, however, Das agrees to talk. “They show him [Palande] on TV. They say he has murdered two more people. It reminds me of my husband and how the impostor befriended my innocent son,” she said.
Anup, his mother said, had known Palande for at least five years before the latter killed him. The duo met at Juhu-based Copper Chimney restaurant where Palande worked as a waiter. Palande then introduced Anup to Simran Sood as his sister. The duo gradually got close to the Das family, following which Anup gave his Juhu apartment to the duo since Palande claimed that he did not have a place to live.
“They were sweet talkers. They had meals at our home, and blended so well into the family that it was unimaginable that they could do what they did,” she said. On January 26, 1998, Palande approached the family and sought permission to take Anup to Mahabaleshwar on a business trip. The family, unaware of his intentions, agreed. It was then that Palande sedated the Air India engineer, murdered him and threw his body down the Kumbharli valley.
“After Anup did not return for two days, I asked Palande several times where my son was. He kept saying that they were busy with some business work and that they would return soon,” she recollected.
However, seven days after Palande killed her son, he told her husband, Swaraj Ranjan, that he would take him to Mahabaleshwar to meet his son.
“My husband was anxious to see Anup. And there was no way he had even doubted that Palande would have murdered my son. And then, after all the police inquiry, we learnt that even my husband was murdered. He wanted the Juhu property,” she said.
Das said that there was very little that could be done to prevent the gruesome killings. “We trusted him. We trusted Simran. And now, he is doing the same thing — winning people’s trust and then exploiting them. Even if law doesn’t, I am sure that God will punish him and get us the justice we deserve.”
Das, who has high blood pressure, lives with her second son Abhijit in an apartment on Juhu-Versova link road. Her daughter Sushmita is married and lives with her family in Kolkata.