Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Indian saga of crime, sex and politics

Indian saga of crime, sex and politics
Syed Ali Mujtaba

It may sound strange, but it is normal to find crime, politics and sex going hand in hand in the Hindi heartland of India. A cocktail of one such combination came to light when a little known young poetess Madhumita Shukla was murdered in her apartment in Lucknow. Six months pregnant, Madhumitta was alleged to have relations with Amarmani Tripathi, a minister in Mayawati’s cabinet in Uttar Pradesh. The news attracted media headlines for all the juice and spice, a crime thriller has in its plot.

The reason for Madhumitta’s murder apparently has been because Amarmani’s legal wife did not approve her husband’s illicit relationship forcing the flamboyant BSP leader to choose between the two. Tirpathi, who has established criminal record, pleads innocence, saying the accusations were foisted on him to tarnish his political image.

However, his arguments do not convenience his critics as the poetess and the minister were seen together at several places in public. The domestic help in Madhumitta’s house too stand witness to this fact. He told private news channels, that, “the minister use to frequent the house and couple use to retire upstairs.” The telephone calls made in the past three days before the murder also scream that as many as thirty-five calls were exchanged between the deceased and the minister. Further, medical prescriptions too corroborate the liaison where Madhumitta was addressed as Mrs AM (Amarmani) or as Mrs Tirpathi.

With the TV channels playing the murder mystery with extra tinge and the opposition and public opinion mounting, the UP Chief Minister Mayawati had no option than to sack Tirpathi from her cabinet. However, his removal came with strings attached; the police officer who initially took up the case was transferred, the case instead of being handed over to the CBI was given to CB-CID, the state investigating agency.

The domestic help of Madhumita who was an eyewitness to the murder, was taken to custody with no trace of his whereabouts. Madhumita’s sister Nidhi, who initially alleged Tirpathi to be the main conspirator, backtracked from her own statement. The sample of foetus taken for the DNA test to ascertain the parentage of the child was being withheld. The whole thing looks as if is being hushed up till public memory fades.

A new twist to Madhumita murder mystery emerged, when the name of a student of IIT Kanpur was tossed up alleged to have married the poetess. A priest too has surfaced claiming to have solemnised one such wedding, a yea ago. The student is believed to have gone to Singapore for summer course and his parents vehemently deny such allegations.

It’s no secret that Amarmani Tirphati had contacts with Madhumita, it’s also an open fact that more than 35criminal cases are registered against Tirpathi, which include murder, extortion and abduction. However, with all the clinching evidences, the general perception is the minister will never be brought to book. With the investigating agency famous for being astonishingly slow, it is also a foregone conclusion Madhumitta’s case will prolong till public memory sleeps.

In context north India’s social and political milieu, Madhumita’s case is not an isolated one. The Indian Express reporter, Shivani Bhatnagar murder case too had a similar plot. Here an officer of Indian Police Services, R.K Sharma stands accused having an illicit affair with Shivai Bhatnagar. It’s alleged that R.K Sharma unable to carry on his relationship with Shivani plotted her murder.

Shivani murder mystery twisted, when R.K Sharma’s wife, screamed on television channels, alleging Union Minister Pramod Mahajan having illicit relationship with the deceased. However, with entire ruling coalition coming in defence of Mahajan, Mrs Sharma’s allegation was summarily rejected. The political career of Pramod Mahajan which had come under cloud retrieved and RK Sharma, who later surrendered in the court, languishes in Delhi’s Tihar jail.

It’s common in India to read cases like Madhumita and Shivani cropping up from time to time. In 1995, Naina Shani murder case took the nation by a storm. It was alleged that a small time Congress member, Sushil Sharma, murdered his wife Naina Shani, also a Congress activist, for having an affair. Sharma then tried to burn Naina’s corpse in a tandoor at a Delhi hotel, Ashoka Yatri Nivas, but was accidentally got noticed by the Delhi cops.

Interestingly, the cops bumped over the case unknowingly, when they detected huge smoke emerging from the hotel building and they helped extinguishing the blaze which was hitting the ceilings due large amount of Ghee being poured into the Tandoor. The cops found to their surprise, a charred body in the tandoor, when brought the fire under control, which actually belonged to Naina Shani.

The Naina Shahni murder case hogged media headlines for days together. Sushil Sharma who had fled Delhi by then was dubbed as Tandoor Sharma by India’s vibrant media. It was after days of manhunt he was finally arrested in Bangalore. Naina Shani murder case still has not been disposed even eight years has elapsed to that gory incident.

Something, closer to all these cases rocked the nation in late seventies too. This was the murder of India’s badminton star, Syed Modi, who was shot dead near Lucknow stadium while returning home after a practice session. All evidences to Syed Modi’s murder, point the involvement of Sanjay Singh, the scion of erstwhile Amethi estate and nephew of former Prime Minister Prime V.P Singh. It is alleged that Sanjay Singh having fancy for Modi’s wife Amita, hatched up a conspiracy to murder the badminton star.

National champion, Syed Modi, whose actual name was Mehdi but being misspelled in school records, became Modi, had a roaring affair with Amita, also a national badminton champion. They eventually got married and settled in Lucknow representing the Railways. This is when Sanjay Singh appears on the scene.

The CBI which investigated the case published startling letters to prove the illicit relation that had developed between Sanjay Singh and Amita Modi. It said that at some point Amita too had been enamoured by the wealth and clout of Sanjay Singh and her mother too favoured the Raja to a badminton star. The All England champion, Syed Modi who had no clue what was going on behind his back, became victim of politics, sex and crime game.

Syed Modi murder still remains mystery in the court of law even though every one knows the main conspirator of his murder. Amita Modi has now become Amita Singh and lives with Sanjay Singh as his second wife, first being Garima Singh. Sanjay Singh’s political career remains untarnished and he is a senior Thakur leader of Uttar Pradesh.

All the cases, whether it is Madhumita, Shivani Bhantanagar, Naina Sahni, or Syed Modi, have the common factor of strong male bias in the Indian society. Our country may have made phenomenal progress in certain areas but when it comes to the social values specially man- woman social status, India is still under the grip of feudal mindset. Even as skeletons continue tumbling out of the social closet, laced with stories of crime, politics and sex, the general perception over this social issue remains unchanged in India.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a television journalist currently based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com


Madhumita Case: Amarmani, wife get lifer

Dehradun, October 24,2007: Former Uttar Pradesh minister Amarmani Tripathi, who has a reputation of using strong arm tactics in politics, was on Wednesday convicted in the murder of poetess Madhumita Shukla and sentenced to life imprisonment along with his wife Madhumani and two others.

Amarmani's cousin Rohit Chaturvedi and contract killer Santosh Rai were the other two convicted in the murder four years ago and given life imprisonment while Rakesh Pandey, who was accompanying Rai, was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Holding all the four guilty, District and Sessions Judge V B Rai gave one year additional imprisonment to the Samajwadi Party MLA for wrongful confinement and threats to one Anuj Mishra, who was forced to claim that he was married to the poetess in the aftermath of the murder. He also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each on the convicts.

Madhumita, who was pregnant at the time of murder, was having an affair with Amarmani, whose wife objected to it. She was murdered at her Lucknow flat on May 9, 2003 at the behest of Madhumani.

Though the CBI had demanded death penalty for all the accused, the court said the case was not the rarest of the rare and felt that the four deserved life punishment. It took only five minutes to pronounce the judgement.

The family of the slain poetess expressed dissatisfaction over the sentence and demanded capital punishment to the controversial politician.

Amarmani and three others were present in the court when the judge delivered the judgement.
He was taken back to the jail after the verdict and refused to react to it.

His lawyer Vijay Vikram said the former minister would appeal in the High Court against the judgement.

Amarmani, who was minister in the Mayawati government at the time of murder, joined the Samajwadi Party before a trial of strength in the state assembly later the same year.

Following outbreak of a huge controversy, the case was transferred to the CBI and he was arrested but there were allegations that he threatened Madhumita's sister Nidhi Shukla, who carried on a campaign demanding fair trial, and others of her family.

On the insistence of Nidhi Shukla, the case was transferred by the Supreme Court to Dehradun to ensure a free and fair trial.

CBI counsels Baljit Singh and Raj Mohan Chand said they were satisfied with the verdict.
They said they would examine the court verdict and decide whether to appeal against the acquittal of Prakash Pandey.

"Though we had demanded the highest penalty for all the accused, we are satisfied with the judgement," Chand said.

Nearly 79 witnesses appeared in the case in which the poetess' sister Nidhi and her servant Desraj were the key witnesses.

The family of the slain poetess demanded capital punishment for Amarmani and others convicted in the case.

Madhumita's mother Shanti Devi said the verdict was ‘not a relief’ for the family as Tripathi had on previous occasions ‘threatened and harassed’ them.

BJP and Congress in Uttar Pradesh welcomed the judgement. Former BJP state president Keshari Nath Tripathi said the court's ruling has sent a message that no one is above law.


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