Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jahangir in ‘Saravana Bhavan’

Jahangir in ‘Saravana Bhavan’
Syed Ali Mujtaba

I am sure every one may have heard the story of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and Nur Jahan. For those who haven’t, let me recall; Nur Jahan was married to Sher Afghan, the man who killed a lion in a stroke of his sword.

Jahangir saw Nur Jhan and was charmed by her beauty. In order to marry her, he got her husband Sher Afghan murdered. Jahangir later married Nur Jahan. Rest as they say is history.

A similar case erupted in Chennai when Rajagopal (59) owner ‘Saravana Bhavan’ chain of hotels murdered his employee Prince Santhakumar to marry his wife Jeevajyothi.

The grapevine has it was all because of a astrologer who suggested Rajagopal if he marries someone with particular horse-scope his business may flourish more far and wide. It seems Jeevajyothi’s horse scope matched the specification of Rajagopal.

The hotelier made desperate bit to marry Jeevajyothi and tried all possible ways to make her his third wife. Jeevajyoth did not oblige Rajagopal and instead married Shantakumar, an employee of Saravana Bhavan.

Rajgopal having failed in his designs to get Jeevajyothi planned the murder of her husband Santhakumar so that he could marry his widow.

The henchmen of Rajagopal abducted Santhakumar from his residence in Vellacherry in Chennai in Oct 2001. He was taken Kodaikanal and was gruesomely done to death. Santhakumar body was later found dumped in the Kodai hills forest.

A case was registered on the basis of a complaint given by Jeevajothi that her husband had gone missing and feared that he might have been eliminated by Rajagopal and his henchmen. She also accused Rajagopal of sexually harassing her. The case was later altered from a ‘man-missing case’ to that of murder and filed the charge-sheet against Rajagopal and eight others in 2002.

A fast track court had in 2004 sentenced Rajgopal to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fined him Rs.5.5 million.Rajagopal was arrested but was later let out on bail.

He was rearrested for violating bail conditions during his trial after allegedly attempting to threaten Jeevajothi.He went on appeal to the Madras High court.

The Madras High Court on March 19, 2009 sentenced Rajagopal to life in a murder case and enhanced his 10-year rigorous imprisonment awarded by a trial court.

The verdict was announced by a division bench comprising Justices P.K. Mishra and R. Banumathi, who convicted Rajagopal and six others for the 2001 murder.

The court also increased his conviction from culpable homicide not amounting to murder, to culpable homicide amounting to murder.

The case had caused a sensation, more so of Rajagopal’s meteoric rags to riches story as an entrepreneur and hotelier, starting with a small eatery in Chennai. Rajagopal had struck it rich after opening the ‘Saravana Bhavan’ chain of hotels.

Saravana Bhavan has spread its wings across India and abroad. The chain's website claims it has 22 outlets spread across South India, the North and seven countries.

The chain has a huge woman work force. Young women from rural regions form a strong force in this hotel and sweet chains, largely catering to the middle class in Chennai.

The employees are provided accommodation but have to work long hours, sometimes up to 12 hours a day, with hardly any leave or off. But they claim they are happy working at Saravana Bhavan.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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