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Cops probe honour killing in Delhi journalist’s death

She was a 22-year-old journalist working with the Business Standard in Delhi. He was her batchmate from the Capital’s prestigious...

Written by Manoj Prasad | Ranchi/new Delhi |
May 3, 2010 2:55:50 am

She was a 22-year-old journalist working with the Business Standard in Delhi. He was her batchmate from the Capital’s prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication,working in another media establishment in the city. Their love story had little in common with others they must have come across in their jobs recently. But,it may have ended the same way.

On April 29,Nirupama Pathak was found dead at her home in Koderma,Jharkhand. Her family said she had been found “hanging”. The police believe it may have been honour killing.

Nirupama,who did a one-year Post Graduate Diploma in Radio and TV Journalism from IIMC,was a Brahmin. The man she was planning to marry,her batchmate Priyabhanshu Ranjan,is a Kayastha from Darbhanga in Bihar.

“We have gathered evidence showing she was suffocated to death with a pillow pressed over her face. We hope to resolve this murder case soon,” Koderma Superintendent of Police Kranthi Kumar said.

Ranjan,who last talked to Nirupama on April 28,told The Indian Express her parents had told him she had been electrocuted. However,a post-mortem report (a copy of which has been obtained by The Indian Express) mentions a “ligature mark on the neck”.

The report also shows that Nirupama was three-month pregnant at the time,adding to suspicions of honour killing.

“She called me on April 28. She told me she would not be calling me again. She was crying a lot and said that there was pressure from her mother and brother’s friends. By that time,I too had begun crying. Then abruptly,she cut the call,saying her mother had entered the room. She never called me again,” says Ranjan.

“Her father once told her that I was the lowest of the upper castes,” he adds.

They had been planning to get married in March,says a mutual friend. “They even paid some money to a pandit to conduct the ceremony. At the eleventh hour,her parents intervened,and said they would need some time to come to terms with the alliance.” So,they waited.

Around mid-April,Nirupama’s father Dharmendra Pathak called her up,saying her mother had fractured her backbone. She left Delhi on April 19.

“She was supposed to return on April 29,” says Ranjan. “I was not in touch with her from April 20 to 27. After she called me on April 28,Nirupama called my roommate,asking him to take care of me. She never attended the phone after that.”

The friend says Nirupama also messaged Ranjan,worried he might do something rash. “Once she told him they had locked her up.”

Nirupama’s mother Sudha has told the police her daughter hanged herself from the ceiling fan and that she had discovered the body. She also handed over a piece of paper claiming it was a “suicide note” by her. “Nobody should be held responsible. I must be cremated in Gaya,” the note reads.

Sudha has also told the police that only the two of them were in the house at the time,with her father Dharmendra as well as her two brothers who work outside Jharkhand away. But the police dispute this.

“She was brilliant enough to secure a job in the print medium despite being a student of Radio and TV journalism. She did that in her first campus placement interview itself,” recalls a mutual friend of Nirupama and Ranjan.

Ranjan,who did his PG Diploma in Hindi Journalism from IIMC,met Nirupama on their first day at IIMC. “We met and talked for the first time on June 29,2008,during the IIMC interview,” he recalls.

A distraught Ranjan says Nirupama’s parents are not illiterate people who are conservative. “Her father is a manager in a national bank. She was the youngest of three children — the eldest is an Income Tax inspector and the second is doing his Ph.D in Biotechnology.”

However,they had made it clear that they wanted Nirupama to break off her alliance with Ranjan. He remembers that after the Supreme Court reduced the death sentence of one man who was convicted of murdering his sister’s husband and two family members,Nirupama’s eldest brother had messaged her. “He asked whether she wanted a repeat of the incident,” he says.

In an interview to BBC Radio,Dharmendra Pathak has claimed he did not know of his daughter’s pregnancy. “In Indian culture,fathers don’t ask daughters these things,” he said.

“I knew there was a wedding proposal from another caste but nothing had been finalised. I asked her to concentrate on her career,” he said when asked about his knowledge of the affair. He added that he did not know when Nirupama was planning to return to Delhi.

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