It is a strange and terrible thing, not to fight for a man’s life, but his death. My wife’s beloved uncle, my beloved uncle Dinesh Schaffter was murdered on December 15th. Two months later there is no relief. Instead there is an organized effort to frame him for his own murder. To call it suicide. Besides deeply traumatizing the family, it simply beggars belief.
Our beloved Dinesh died of strangulation, with marks of struggle on his fingers. Yet the story was pushed that he strangled himself, despite this being a physical impossibility. You cannot strangle yourself without passing out. Now the story is being pushed that he took cyanide, and that strangulation was somehow coincidental. Like I said, it beggars belief. Two months later they are bringing out some cyanide story, using a medical officer already suspended for a prior ethics violation. These stories are still being pushed through a pliant press, causing more suffering to the family. Besides killing our beloved Din Anna, they won’t let him rest in peace.
The fact is that Dinesh Schaffter was assassinated in a public place in broad daylight. He had long been trying to expose financial crimes and had no idea what greater crimes these people were capable of. I wish he knew. I wish he hadn’t gone. But now no one in the family cares about exposing anything. We just want him back. We just want to see him again. That being impossible, we just want it to be known how he lived and how he died.
Dinesh Schaffter lived generously. He gave of his time, he gave of his money, he gave of his energy. It pains me deeply to think of how he died and I don’t want to talk about it. I want to think about how he lived, scooping my children into hugs, delighting in them as they delighted in him. Yet we are forced to talk about his death because the same forces that took his life want to take that away from him as well. That is just too much. The dead must have some dignity.
To me Dinesh Schaffter died a brave and honorable death, literally struggling against great evil. Evil so great it doesn’t just take a man’s life away, it tries to take his death too. But they cannot take him out of our hearts, and I believe that they cannot take common sense out of the common people. People know, despite how much they are misled and outright deceived. A man does not strangle himself, then take cyanide, then tie himself up. Certainly not Dinesh Schaffter who would never make such a hash of things. If Dinesh were to commit suicide he’d do it like he did everything. Competently and elegantly.
But the fact is that Dinesh was not thinking of such things. I know because the very day he was killed, he was on his way to see me, to spend Christmas with my family. He had just gone out for a few hours and Paati was waiting, holding guavas to to bring to Oxford, for my son. His mother waited for hours, in vain. He never came home. Still she weeps. Still we mourn, unbidden, all the time. He meant so much to the family. He meant so much to my wife. He meant so much to me.
People don’t understand. Dinesh Schaffter wasn’t a headline. He wasn’t something to be gossiped about with barely hidden glee. He was beloved. He was a devoted father, husband, son, he was even devoted to me—someone who married into the family. Dinesh went out of his way to visit people in hospital or at times of distress, even if they were oceans away. He went out of his way to support his staff, to give to the poor, to help anyone in need. It is only in his death that I realize the sort of person he was, and how impossible his shoes are to fill.
I try to do 1% of the things he did—thinking about people, checking in on them, anticipating their needs—and I can’t. I try every day to be a better person, to be like him, and it’s just such an enormous void. When I hear the personal stories about him, I realize that he was beloved by so many. He was especially close to us, but there were thousands of people at his funeral.
The only thing I’d ask on behalf of those mourners, the family, and my own heart, is to let this lovely, beloved man just rest in peace. They may have taken his life but they can’t take his death. They can’t pin that on him. Dinesh Schaffter lived a good and honorable life and he died a brave death at the hands of bad people.
It is terrible that the family must fight even for the basic dignity of a death certificate, but that’s what he was up against. God know there are enough mothers of the disappeared in our island alone, and they are not alone in the world. That’s what too many are up against, in this world full of impunity. It is a strange and terrible thing to fight for a man’s death. I would rather remember how our beloved Dinesh Schaffter lived. With kindness, with generosity, and—ultimately—with bravery.