When Neats Kill

article

Forget Bill Clinton, at least he never committed murder. Indian politicians, on the other hand, are willing to conspire and kill to avoid the wrath of a jilted lover. Some are convicted and jailed; others escape any accounting for their crimes. By PANKAJ PRASUN

In the rough, often violent political landscape of India’s Hindi heartland, stories abound that would put any Bollywood blockbuster in the shade. The heartland is a cocktail (sometimes deadly) of not only politics and crime but also (inevitably?) sex.

Old timers will recall the case of poetess Madhumita Shukla, who was murdered in her apartment in Lucknow in May 2003. She was found six months pregnant and the gossip in the city left few with any doubts as to the identity of the father: Amarmani Tripathi, a minister in Mayawati’s short lived BSP government in UP (2002-03).

The reason, as the CBI probe conclusively proved, Tripathi’s wife did not approve of the affair (obviously) and husband and wife later conspired to murder Madhumita. Tripathi’s protestations of innocence collapsed quickly as he had never bothered to hide his relationship with Madhumita, and the two were often seen together in public. The crowning evidence was provided by Madhumita’s domestic help, who was quoted as telling a private news channel that “the minister used to frequent the house and the couple would retire upstairs.”

Local print and television media went to town with other salacious details including medical evidence, and the fact that Madhumita was often addressed as Mrs. AM (Amarmani) or Mrs. Tripathi. Mayawati was forced to remove Tripathi from her cabinet but then something very common to Indian politics began to manifest itself. The investigating officer in the case was inexplicably transferred, DNA test results of the foetus was sought to be suppressed, and strangely, Madhumita’s own sister Nidhi, after pointing the finger at Tripathi, later backtracked.

It was clear the BSP wanted to hush up the whole affair (evidently Tripathi’s criminal background with 35 cases against him made him a political asset). Ultimately, the CBI took over the case and he and his wife were found guilty in 2007 and sentenced to life in jail. The beauty of this case is both are in Gorakhpur hospital stricken by some mysterious illness and their son Amarmani is being held on suspicion of killing his wife Sara!

Another case in the same state, the murder of badminton star Syed Modi (actually Mehdi), shot dead while emerging from the KD Singh Babu stadium in Lucknow after a practice session in July 1988. So many years after that killing, the motive is still a mystery even though the killer, one Bhagwati was sentenced to life in prison.

All others got away including Syed Modi’s wife Amita Kulkarni, herself a badminton champion; her alleged paramour at that time (and later husband) Congress politician and UP sports minister Raja Sanjay Singh of Amethi. Singh claimed Modi has been murdered in order to “fix him”, hinting at political rivalry. Amita Modi has been Amita Singh for many years and lives with Sanjay Singh as his second wife, his first being Garima Singh.

Cut to Haryana and the flamboyant love story of Chander Mohan, the former Deputy Chief Ministerand Anuradha Bali, state Deputy Advocate General. Their affair began sometime in 2004 with clandestine meetings around a juice corner in Chandigarh. But it hit the headlines when both converted to Islam four years later, Chander Mohan becoming Chand Mohammad and Anuradha changing her name to Fiza Bano, and got married.

With increasing transparency and public awareness, such cases will not remain in legal limbo and justice will be neither delayed nor denied

The former’s wife Seema Bishnoitook strong exception to the relationship and in the family ruckus that followed, Chand lost his job, his father BhajanLal refusing to accept Chand’s rights to the family property. As the pressure mounted, Chand fled to London in January 2009, returning in July to “reconvert” and divorce Fiza. Records show he visited her in June 2010 to reportedly “seek her forgiveness”, but two months later she was found dead at her Mohali residence.

In Rajasthan too, there was the high profile story of a politician’s involvement in sex and murder. The CBI is pursuing a case against former minister Mahipal Maderna, accused of murdering nurse Bhanwari Devi in 2011.

From Rajasthan to Delhi for more love and murder. This involved Indian Express reporter Shivani Bhatnagar’s love affair with RK Sharma, an IG rank officer in Haryana, who when he was in the PMO apparently leaked confidential documents to her. They got intimate but he balked when she demanded they divorce their spouses and get married. There seems little doubt he plotted to have her murdered. Sharma and three others were sentenced to life in prison by a lower court in 2008 but the Delhi High Court acquitted him three years later.

Incidentally, at one point in the high drama court case, Sharma’s wife told TV channels that Union minister Pramod Mahajan was the one intimate with Shivani. That claim soon fell through (Mahajan was to die at his own brother’s hand some years later).

The Tandoor murder case also had political ramifications. Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma shot dead his wife Naina, also a Congress member, in July 1995 on suspicion she was having an affair with a male friend. He tried to dispose of her body by burning it in the tandoor of the Ashok Yatri Nivas, but policemen on late night duty noticed columns of smoke rising and went in to investigate: They saw Sharma pouring ghee into the tandoor and the half charred body of Naina inside. Sharma spent 21 years in prison and was paroled last September to attend to his aunt who was in coma.

These cases are not peculiar to the Hindi heartland. Every corner of India has its share of love stories going wrong and the inevitable tragic aftermath. Inevitably, the politician is able to hide his crime for some time, with the state machinery in many cases going out of the way to connive in the cover up. Hopefully, with increasing transparency and public awareness, such cases will not remain in legal limbo and justice will be neither delayed nor denied. But one wonders how those who connived at cold blooded murder are able to live their lives apparently without any pangs of conscience.

Summary

  • Northern India is witness to many cases where love affairs involving high profile politicians goes wrong
  • In many of these cases, a jilted lover threatens to reveal all and mysteriously dies or disappears and state governments connive in covering up
  • The hope is that as transparency grows and people become more aware, such cases will diminish
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