Mattoo?s dad to fight till the end
Last Wednesday, a 68-year-old in an Andheri home watched with vacant eyes as TV flashed news of fresh warrants against the accused in the Jessica Lall murder case.
And then, he switched to a day 10 years ago. Chaman Mattoo in his south Delhi home, his daughter bidding goodbye as she left for work… It seemed like yesterday.
That was the last Mattoo saw of his daughter Priyadarshini. A few hours later, the DU law student was raped and murdered by an IPS officer's son who had been stalking her for months.
Like Jessica's alleged killer Manu Sharma, Santosh Singh, the man accused of killing Priyadarshini, was acquitted in December 1999. Judge G.P. Thareja said he was sure Singh had raped and murdered Priyadarshini, but could do nothing because he had no evidence.
It was six years ago that the appeal moved to the Delhi High Court. The hearing hasn't even begun. And so, the news of the Jessica retrial hasn't wiped the frown off the ex-PWD engineer's face. But he hasn't given up either: he keeps shuttling between Jammu and Mumbai, stopping by in Delhi where his battle continues. It's a battle his wife and son want no part of — they live in the US, as far away from their aching memories as they could possibly get.
"Priyadarshini was such a fighter that she gave Santosh Singh 32 wounds before she died. How can I give up on her," asks Mattoo. "I want the case reinvestigated, the evidence corroborated and the deposition of witnesses cleared," he says. And then trails off into more abstract-and possibly therefore, less painful - philosophy: divine justice, dharma, adharma.
But the fighter returns quickly enough as he lists the loopholes in the case: the mishandling of the DNA evidence from the Hyderabad lab, the shoddy in-house probe into the CBI's examination and the constant interference in the case by Santosh Singh's powerful father.
How long will he fight? "I have no reason to live now that she's gone," he says. A moment later, he reconsiders. "Priyadarshini has kept me here as a barrier against injustice. Bitiya, pray that I live long enough to win this battle."