March 12, 2015 2:16:51 am
For Anjali Mullatti and her husband H Jaishankar — founders of the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust — Wednesday’s Supreme Court order handing out life term to six convicts for the murder of Indian Oil Corporation manager S Manjunath came as a quiet victory.
Mullatti, an alumnus of IIM Lucknow, and Jaishankar, who graduated from IIM Bangalore, fought the case for over nine years after Manjunath was shot dead in November 2005 for cracking down on corruption.
Manjunath, Mullatti told The Indian Express, was 10 years her junior at IIM Lucknow and neither she nor her husband knew him personally. “There was a lot of outrage against the murder among IIM students who created a group to voice their views. We found that nobody was focusing on the case progress. That was also the time when there was outrage in the Jessica Lal murder case and a fair amount of activism on the ground. So Jai and I decided to form an entity, and in February 2006, the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust was born.”
Mullatti said a friend connected them to noted lawyer Kamini Jaiswal. The trial was then going on in a court in Kheri. “Jaiswal was extremely helpful. She introduced us to advocate I B Singh, who told us he would not charge for fighting the case,” Mullatti said.
Mullatti said Jaiswal and Singh’s dedication were “important milestones” that led to the conviction of the accused in the trial court seven years ago.
She added, “The concerned sub-inspector was very helpful. We also got in touch with several media houses. We needed it to be in public eye,” Mullatti said.
Mullatti said she and Jaishankar took turns to travel from Mysore to Kheri to attend every single hearing: “If you are not there, why would anybody else be there?”
Students of IIM Lucknow, too, formed a volunteer group to assist.
“My first motivator to form this trust was Manju’s mother. He was from a lower-middle class background and the mother speaks only Tamil. She once said she cries tears of blood but could do nothing as they are ‘poor people’. I heard that and I said, as a community, a fraternity, IIM is powerful. I have been active on the alumni network, so I know a few phone calls can raise money, get work done. But I never knew we would get so deeply involved.
Once a huge responsibility comes, you cannot shirk it,” she said.
Once the couple took the lead, others came forward to help. “A widow from an old-age home once sent her pension cheque of Rs 1,000 but we sent it back saying we only needed her blessings. She sent us the cheque again — this time of Rs 2,000,” she said.
Whenever Mullatti and Jaishankar would visit Kheri, they would stay at an accommodation in IIM Lucknow. “Manju was known to be happy-go-lucky, loved to sing… He could have been a friend. He was a boy next door. That’s what made us angrier. He was just doing his job.”
Manjunath, who grew up in Kolar in Karnataka, had a younger brother, Raghavendra, and a younger sister, Sujata. Raghavendra said Manjunath was very social and had a huge friend circle. Though “quite average” in studies, he was good at sports and music. He was also the first in the family to get into IIM.
The family had been looking for a bride for him when he was killed. Raghavendra remembers the day they got the bad news. “My father fainted. It took us time to become normal. Nothing can replace Manju but we are slowly learning to cope,” he said.
CHAIN OF EVENTS
November 18, 2005: Manjunath takes a room at a hotel in Gola Gokaran area.
November 19: Manjunath goes to Mittal Automobile petrol pump, conducts inspection and apparently finds anomalies. The pump was owned by Sulakshan Mittal, father of the main accused Pawan Mittal alias Monu Mittal. He apparently tells the petrol pump owner he would send a report to his headquarters. He forgets a measuring instrument at the pump. Monu decides to kill Manjunath before he can send the report. He contacts his friend Devesh Agnihotri for help.
At 9.30 pm, Manjunath returns to the petrol pump. An employee tells him the instrument is kept in a cupboard and the keys are with Monu. An employee calls up Monu who arrives after 10 minutes with Devesh. They accompany Manjunath to the car. As he is getting inside, Monu and Devesh shoot him dead and push the body to the rear seat. Monu asks two of his employees to dispose the body.
November 20: Sitapur police stop a car at 8 am in an area under Maholi police station and find a body inside. Two occupants, Rakesh Anand and Vivek Sharma, are taken into custody. Deceased identified as S Manjunath.
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