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Friday, July 30, 2010

State calls all hill parties on August 3....Meal denied-Husband hacked wife...CPM get life for murders.... Shobhraj convicted

KalimNews: West Bengal Government has invited all the hill parties except GJMM for an all party meeting to discuss on the present situation of the hills and the settlement on the demand of Gorkhaland. State and Democratic Front sources confirmed that a 12 member delegation will meet the state authorities for the talks.  All other parties including GNLF will be sending 2 representatives each.
Democratic Front President Dawa Sherpa said that a verbal information is received by the Front and the foremost demand of the parties of hills would be restoration of peace and democracy in the hills and immediate arrest of Tamang killers. The meeting to be held in Writers' Building at Kolkata will be attended by two Ministers Suryakanta Mishra and Ashoke Bhattacharya
Sources said that the state Government wants to get the opinion of all the GJMM opposition parties regarding the structure and powers of the proposed interim setup. It doesnot want to repeat the sixth schedule situation when GNLF was in power. Meanwhile GNLF sources said that it is not attending the meeting.
TitBits:The proposed meeting of ABGL in Sukhiapokhri was cancelled by the party due to a strike called by GJMM on the very day. 
Mahim Thapa a resident of Ghoom, Darjeeling is arrested by Siliguri police from a Pradhan Nagar hotel in Siliguri. 28 years Thapa  is accused of cheating public and taking bribes by impersonating as Central and State Government Officer.
Darjeeling Police website is launched.Updating of its previous website launched in 2004 was discontinued. This new site has an option to register complains to thye respective police stations. 
Writers’ invite for talks- govt to sound out front on set-up
TT, July 30: The Bengal government has invited the Democratic Front and the GNLF for a meeting at Writers’ Buildings on August 3.
Dawa Sherpa, the convener of the Front, said in Darjeeling today: “I have received a verbal intimation, inviting us to the meeting and we will definitely be going to Calcutta.”
The Front is a conglomeration of six parties opposed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the hills.
In Calcutta, minister of state for hill affairs, Asok Bhattacharya, said this was being done to get the views of the “other stakeholders in the hills” on the interim set-up for Darjeeling.
“The Morcha may be in the forefront of the statehood movement, but there are other outfits in the hills which are stake holders in the development of Darjeeling,” Bhattacharya said. “That's why we want to take their views on what the shape and form of the interim set-up in the hills should be.”
Bhattacharya said their suggestions would be incorporated in the final observations of the state government on the interim set-up that would be sent to Delhi soon. He said both he and health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra would jointly hold the meeting with the hill opposition parties.
However, the Front also wants a discussion on ABGL leader Madan Tamang’s murder and on the restoration of democracy in the hills.
“It has been proved beyond doubt that the Morcha does not allow other parties to function in the hills. The decision to call a strike in Sukhiapokhri today when we were supposed to organise a meeting has made everything clear,” said Sherpa.
Observers in the hills said the state was holding the meeting with the hill opposition parties as it did not want a repeat of the Sixth Schedule fiasco when the government thought that discussions with only the predominant party, which was the GNLF then, would solve all issues.
“Even though the GNLF had demanded the status, the arrangement could not be implemented because of stiff resistance from others and the hills plunged into another crisis,” said an observer.
The timing of the meeting is also important as during the last tripartite talks in New Delhi on July 24, the Centre had directed the state and the Morcha to submit its final observations within two weeks. “The state perhaps does not want to make any observation without impressing on the other political parties the need to accept an interim set-up for the time being,” said the observer.
Apart from the ABGL, the Front also includes the CPRM — the second largest party in the hills — GNLF (C), BJP, Trinamul Congress and the Darjeeling-Sikkim Akikaran Manch. GNLF MLA Shanta Chhetri said her party would not attend the meeting as Subhash Ghishing had “rejected” the idea.

Talks only with GJM will not solve Gorkhaland problem: AIGL
PTI, Siliguri (WB), July 30: All India Gorkha League (AIGL) today said that central and state government should not hold tripartite talks with the GJM alone as it was not the only political party representing people of Darjeeling. Pratap Khati, a member of the Central Committee of the AIGL, said apart from his own party there were other political parties as well which should be involved in the talks brokered by the Centre to resolve the statehood issue amicably.
Khati, who came here to meet Darjeeling district Trinamool Congress president Gautam Deb, said the Centre should include AIGL and other political parties in the tripartite talks if the government was at all interested to establish peace in Darjeeling. "It is horrible that the Centre and state government were holding talks with those who were named in the FIR for involvement in the AIGL president Madan among murder case," he said.
Khati alleged that the West Bengal government, in particular, was sailing in two boats by threatening to arrest Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders named in the FIR and holding talks with them at the same time.
Meal denied- Husband hacked wife
TT, Gangtok, July 30: A 40-year- old mechanic of the Sikkim transport department has been arrested for murdering his wife, a mother of two children, for allegedly refusing to serve him food.
Hari Prasad Sharma, a resident of Neopany village in Rumtek, East Sikkim, had allegedly slit her throat with a knife. Rekha bled to death at their house yesterday afternoon.
According to the in-charge of Ranipool police station, Sonam Wangchen, the local panchayat had informed him about the murder.
The villagers said the couple’s elder son was in school, and the younger son, aged around four, had gone to a crèche when the murder happened.
Hari Prasad is employed in a workshop near Saramsa.
Although earlier he had claimed that someone had broken into their house, murdered his wife, and fled with cash and ornaments, he broke down at the police station this morning, the police said.
Hari Prasad told the police that when he returned home from work in the afternoon he found Rekha sleeping. He asked her to serve him food but she hurled abuses at him. A quarrel broke out and he hit her on the head with an utensil. “She shouted another round of obscenities, and in a fit of rage, I slit her throat with a knife,” Hari Prasad told the police.
He also confessed he had tried to cover up the crime by making up a story about a robbery in which the perpetrators fled with Rs 13,000 and gold ornaments after killing Rekha. The police said both Hari Prasad and his wife were alcoholics and used to quarrel regularly. A case under Section 302 of the IPC has been registered at the Ranipool police station.
Prakha: Gangtok:
Villagers wary after wild scare- big cat, bear & boar: visitors in a week
TT, Gangtok, July 30: The leopard, the bear and wild boars: residents of a West Sikkim village have had a scary week trying to thwart them off from their habitat.
In the first case, however, foresters are not sure if the predator was a leopard, but villagers of Lower Yangtay insist that a big cat had devoured a cow in its shed on the night of July 27, the remains of which were found the next morning.
“We were informed about the incident only yesterday. But we don’t know whether that predator was a leopard, or some other wild animal, as normal evidences like pugmarks were washed away by the rain. The carcass had also been buried by the villagers,” said divisional forest officer (wildlife, West Sikkim) Suraj Thatal.
Yangtey village is near a reserve forest. On the evening of July 28, there were reports from the neighbouring areas of more attacks on cattle by the animal.
The same day a bear was spotted in the forest staff quarters in Geyzing, the district headquarters of West Sikkim 116km from here. The size of the bear could not be ascertained as it was dark, said the DFO. “We have asked the school students not to venture out into the forest while coming back from school and patrolling has been intensified.”
Wildlife authorities said the suspected leopard, which killed the cow, could have transgressed into human settlement because of food scarcity in the forest. The leopard might be injured or has grown old and so depended on easy preys like domesticated animals. 
Last year, Himalayan black bears had entered Yangtey and its surrounding areas.
In fact, between September and December last year, at least 70 bear transgressions were reported and some of these turned into a man-animal conflict that led to the death of one of the animals. One bear was also killed in a fierce territorial fight on November 10 at Dokeythang reserved forest near Geyzing.
The DFO said the foresters had visited the village after the first leopard raid to sensitise the people. The leopard is an endangered species and falls under Schedule I of the wildlife protection act. It mainly feeds on barking deer.
West district is also grappling with the problem of wild boars that often enter maize fields in fringe villages. Since early last month there have been several reports from Ripdi, Bareng and Soreng of such wild boar forays. “It looks like the wild boars are particularly fond of maize. We have been trying to push these animals back into the wild,” said the DFO.
The wildlife authorities said an increase in the population of these animals and lack of food in the wild was forcing them to enter the villages.
But foresters hope that a good season for phumpseys or wild avocado this time will stop the wild forays. “Once the plants bear fruits, then both human and wild animals will enjoy the abundance.” Phumpseys are wild fruits popular with both the herbivores and human beings.
He said often people collected these fruits from the forests, creating a scarcity for the wild animals. This time, the produce has been more than last year, he added. 
CPM men get life for murders
TT, Cooch Behar, July 30: A dozen CPM workers were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two Congress leaders in Mathabhanga 25 years ago.
Mahesh Roy Basunia and Gorachand Roy were hacked to death on August 7, 1985, when they were going to Bhogramguri to organise a peace rally.
Roy Basunia’s wife Anjali and son Mriganka were relieved to hear the sentence. “I am relieved that the verdict has finally come. However, I am not happy that front-ranking leaders of the CPM in the district, who were directly linked to my husband’s murder, are still roaming around,” Anjali said.
She remembered that following the murder, senior Congress leaders, including Pranab Mukherjee, had visited her home.
The verdict was read out by additional district sessions judge (special), Bibek Chowdhury.
“My husband was an MA in political science and a brilliant student of ABN Seal College. He had sat for the IAS examination and qualified twice, in 1968 and 1969. But he could not join both the times as police verifications were not sent on time because of the CPM’s intervention,” said Anjali.
She said Basunia had left a teaching job in 1970 and joined the Congress as a full-time worker. “He was a member of the railway board when Ghani Khan Chowdhury was the railway minister. He would have been 66 today,” she said.
Arun Chowdhury, a district secretariat member of the CPM, said an appeal would be made to the higher court against today’s verdict.
KalimNews: Of the 23 accused in the duo murder 8 are already dead and 3 were given cleanchit. The convicted are Sashikanta , Manbhola, Suresh,  Amulya, Shiben , Sunil, Mani , Suresh (2) and Shailya Burman:Anil Bashunia, Sarat Burman and Mahesh Roy. All are sentenced for life imprisonment and 2 years rigorous punishment with a fine of Rupeese six thousand  under three sections 302, 149 and 324.
Protest at teacher selection
TT, Siliguri, July 30: Trinamul Youth Congress today launched an indefinite dharna in front of the District Primary School Council office in Jalpaiguri, alleging that friends and family members of CPM leaders had made it to the final list for the recruitment of teachers through unfair means.
The CPM’s youth wing admitted privately that many eligible candidates had been denied jobs because of the unfair practices adopted by the council.
The council had conducted entrance tests and interviews to fill up 1,411 vacant posts of primary schoolteachers in Jalpaiguri district and around 1,000 names were published yesterday for the recruitment.
“Ever since the the recruitment process was set in motion, the council has been acting in a biased manner and there had been disputes on a number of issues like the cut-off marks, vacancies in different categories and likewise,” said Chandan Bhowmik, the secretary general of Jalpaiguri district Trinamul Congress.
“We had been suspecting irregularities and our apprehensions were confirmed yesterday when the council published the results of the tests and the interviews. We found that most of the selected people are family members, friends and relatives of CPM leaders,” he said.
According to Bhowmik, the primary eligibility to appear for the exam was a Madhyamik certificate. “Since yesterday evening, several candidates, who had secured even 90 per cent marks in Madhyamik, have been approaching us, saying they could not clear the tests and interviews. But those with lower marks in Class X board exams made it to the final list,” said the Trinamul leader.
A total of 1,31,500 candidates had submitted applications for the 1,411 posts and around 21,000 were called for the exams based on their marks in Madhyamik. The final screening was conducted through interviews, in which 6,634 candidates had appeared.
Council sources said names of candidates selected for the remaining posts were kept on hold as verification of their qualifications and other details was yet to be completed.
The sources also said the wife of the council chairman was among the chosen candidates.
The recruitment drive had met with protests for other reasons also. Members of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad ransacked a bank distributing forms for the tests in the Dooars to protest “higher” cut-off marks for tribal candidates. The council was also accused of being lenient towards candidates who had resorted to cheating during the entrance tests.
Mrinal Pal, the council chairman, said he was not ready to comment on the allegations over the phone. “I cannot speak on the issue right now,” he said before switching off his cellphone.
The selection has irked the DYFI. “Instead of the needy youths, it is the relatives of leaders, right from branch committee level to district committee, who have been recruited for jobs,” said a DYFI leader.
The CPM, however, vouched that the selection process was fair and transparent. “Trinamul is levelling baseless allegations. The council has complied with all rules and formalities during the process,” said a member of the CPM’s Jalpaiguri district secretariat. 
Bullet fury spills over on second day Blaze, bandh and benched cops
TT, Islampur, July 30: Violence renewed this morning and torched buses were set ablaze again as a mob went on the rampage during a bandh in Srikrishnapur where a police firing on a school campus killed a guardian yesterday.
Islampur town and adjoining Srikrishnapur were shut and traffic on the busy NH31 was held up for 10 hours because of the bandh called by the SUCI, which was supported by all the parties. Seven policemen have been suspended for their role in the firing on the Srikrishnapur High School campus.
Ganesh Gayen, the purported owner of the land adjacent to the school over which the violence and firing took place, was also arrested.
Bandh supporters set up road blockades in Islampur and Srikrishnapur from 6am, despite requests from the subdivisional administration to keep the national highway out of the purview of the protest.
After the death of Dipak Mirdha on the school premises yesterday, sub-inspector B.N. Ghosh and four constables had been placed under suspension pending departmental inquiry and block land reforms officer B. Banerjee was asked to go on leave by Islampur subdivisional officer Partha Ghosh. Three other policemen were suspended today.
The firing was provoked after the BLRO, accompanied by the policemen had come with Gayen, to take possession of an acre of land adjacent to the school. They were armed with an order issued by the additional district magistrate The teachers, students and guardians had protested the land take-over, leading to the violence and firing.
The school will remain shut till the situation calms down. “We have decided to keep the school closed till the situation normalises,” said headmaster Swapan Pal.
Echoing yesterday’s demand, CPM state committee member Sudhir Biswas said the local people want the suspended policemen, the BLRO, and Gayen to be booked for murder. “If this demand is not met, we will launch an intense agitation,” Biswas threatened.
Additional superintendent of police Annappa E said a case had been started against the policemen on the basis of a complaint filed by the headmaster of the school.
The subdivisional officer held an all-party meeting in the afternoon. He said a proposal has been sent to the government to compensate the next of kin of the dead and free treatment for the injured.
On NH31, the highway connecting Siliguri to Purnea More hundreds of passengers were stranded in their buses for almost over 10 hours till 4pm when traffic resumed.
Kalyan Das, who was travelling to Siliguri from Calcutta, was among those who got stuck. “We did not know about the bandh and with all shops closed, we had nothing to eat or drink. Such bandhs should not be called,” he said.
The secretary of the CPM’s zonal committee, Swapan Guha Neogy, blamed the Congress and the Trinamul Congress for blocking the highway, although The Telegraph saw his party supporters set up a picket too (see picture).
The Congress chairman of the Islampur municipality, Kanhaialal Agarwal, said the blockades had been set up by the “enraged public”.
Maoists posters in Rajbhavan
IANS, Kolkata, July 30 – Maoist posters were found pasted on one of the gates of the West Bengal governor’s house here Friday night, causing a stir.
Police said the posters were put up on the southern gate of the Raj Bhavan. The posters were removed immediately and a search operation conducted in the area, said a senior police officer.
Several other posters were also found from the Gate no 7 of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, said the officer.
The posters contained an appeal to observe ‘martyr’s week’, which is being observed by the tribals in Junglemahal (the forested areas of three western districts – West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura) between July 29 and Aug 4 in memory of Sidhu Soren, the founder-member of the People’s Commitee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) and its armed wing, Sidhu Kanu Gana Militia, who was killed July 26.
Soren and five other Maoist guerrillas were gunned down by security forces during a fierce clash at the Metla forest in West Midnapore July 26.
When contacted, city police’s senior officers refused to comment on this issue. Joint Commissioner (headquarters) Jawed Shamim did not respond after repeated attempts.

Air of revolt against axe order
TT, Raiganj, July 30: A section of policemen in North Dinajpur has threatened not to carry arms while going for law and order duties because of the spate of suspensions.
Eleven policemen have been suspended in five days in the district. Official sources said four policemen were suspended on July 25 for allegedly torturing to death a high school employee at Kotar police camp the previous night, while seven were punished after a guardian was shot dead in Srikrishnapur high school yesterday.
Himanshu Saha, the district secretary of the Non-gazetted Police Karmachari Samiti, said: “We shall not carry arms while on law and order duty. Let senior officials including the district superintendent of police carry arms till the suspension orders are withdrawn.” The policemen would not take any further risk while on law and order duty. They would go unarmed and with folded hands to control a mob, Saha said.
“If we take any firm step to deal with a mob involved in destroying government properties, we are taken to task. Even if we fail to control any rampaging crowd, we are punished. Things cannot go like that,” Saha said.
The association leader claimed that yesterday four policemen were on duty when thousands of people started throwing stones targeting them. The crowd had set fire to a number of police vehicles. The four had to resort to firing in self-defence and also to protect government properties.
But the additional district superintendent of police and other senior officials who arrived there later announced that they had suspended the four policemen “to please the crowd,” Saha said.
In deference to the demand of the local people, the additional SP also announced that a murder case under Section 302 would be initiated against the suspended policemen after receiving the post-mortem report, Saha said. “We have voiced our resentment to the officer against this.”
Recalling that four constables had been benched after they picked up a high school employee from a gambling den, Saha claimed that the person had died on way to hospital but the men in khaki were blamed for the death.
The Congress-affiliated Paschim Banga Police Association state president Bijitaswa Rout also voiced concern about the district police authorities’ attitude towards the lower rung personnel.
“This has a direct bearing on the morale of the policemen. We shall take up the matter with the director-general of police.” Rout said. “If required, my organisation is ready to sit with the district police authorities to seek redress.”
Additional district superintendent of police Annapa E. admitted that the policemen were faced public wrath if they took any stern action against a mob.
“It has really been creating a problem for the policemen. But I cannot comment on the department’s decision against the policemen,” Annapa E said.
Supreme Court upholds Charles Sobhraj conviction 
Republica, KATHMANDU, July 30: Supreme Court (SC) on Friday upheld Patan Appellate Court’s decision to convict French national Charles Gurumukh Sobhraj on the charge of murders, our correspondent Bimal Gautam reported.
Charles Sobhraj 250x169He has been also convicted for possessing fake passport.Sobhraj who was arrested in 2003 in charge of murdering two foreign nationals back in 1975 was sent to jail after Kathmandu District Court convicted him of murder in 2004. He was found guilty of killing US citizen Connie Jo Bronzich and Canadian national Armond Carriere in 1975.
Later, in 2005, the Patan Appeallate Court also upheld the district court’s verdict.
Sobhraj moved to SC to prove himself innocent.
He has to continue serving his life sentence slapped by the courts.
'Bikini killer not hopeful of release in Nepal'TNN, KATHMANDU: When this reporter went to Kathmandu's Central Prison to see Charles Sobhraj on Thursday, a day before the Supreme Court was to pronounce the final judgment on his seven-year sensational trial for a murder committed in 1975, he appeared nervous and cagey. An Australian photographer had been to the prison to contact him, for the third day in a row, and he was apprehensive the man was actually a contract killer hired by enemies, whom he did not name, to do a hit and run after he walked out of the prison a free man. 
The 66-year-old's fears proved to be unfounded on Friday when judges Ram Kumar Prasad Shah and Gauri Dhakal struck down his hopes of freedom, finding him guilty of the gruesome murder of American flower child Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975 and upholding the life term announced by the district court in 2004 and upheld by the appellate court the following year.
In a packed and hushed court room, where Sobhraj's 22-year-old fiancée Nihita Biswas sat stunned, along with her mother Shakuntala Thapa , and brother Bijay, Shah enumerated in measured tones the reasons that led the bench to conclude that Sobhraj was guilty despite his denials that he had never come to Nepal before 2003, did not know Bronzich and never committed any crime in the Himalayan republic.
Nepal police, who had failed to provide either an airtight case or strong evidence, were baled out by the Indian courts where Sobhraj had faced about eight to nine trials, ranging from robbery to a murder charge. Justice Shah said the judgement was based on the India court proceedings and conclusions as well as at least two statements by Sobhraj in which he had admitted to have visited Nepal in 1975.
During a trial in India's Supreme Court, Shah said an Indian magistrate had asked Indian police to investigate the allegation that Sobhraj had killed a Dutch tourist, Henricus Bintanja in Bangkok. The fact that Sobhraj asked not to be extradited to Bangkok, and an "admission" that he went to Kathmandu under Bintanja's name and stayed in the Soaltee Hotel, bolstered the charge by Nepal police that Sobhraj had visited Nepal on Bintanja's tampereed passport and killed Bronzich, the judge said.

During the Indian trials, Sobhraj had also mentioned that he came to Nepal accompanied by his girlfriend and accomplice Marie Andree Leclerc and his Indian henchman Ajay Chaudhuri, Shah said. He also told Indian police the three of them fled from the Soaltee after police questioned Sobhraj for Bronzich's murder and quickly exited Nepal using the land route, the judge added.
The other piece of clinching evidence, the judges said, was the testimony by an Australian woman tourist who had travelled on the same bus as Bronzich from Pokhara. In her statement, the woman, the judge said without naming her, had said she was in regular touch with Bronzich. Bronzich told her she had made the acquaintance of a Vietnamese jeweller, whom she would be meeting at the Soaltee Hotel, the statement by the woman said.
"Even though there was no direct evidence, these links establish Sobhraj's guilt and we find no evidence to indicate that the district court and appellate court had erred in their guilty verdict and uphold it," Shah said. The judges also upheld the contention that besides Bronzich, Sobhraj, who used the aliases Henricus Bintanja and Alain Gautier during his Nepal stay, also killed a Canadian tourist, Laurent Carriere, and used his passport to fly to Bangkok and return a day later.
The verdict remained unswayed by the arguments put forward by Thapa, who is also Sobhraj's lawyer, including the rejection of the admissions reportedly made by Sobhraj in India. Sobhraj says he never made any confession in India or say he visited Nepal and the statements attributed to him are fakes forwarded to Nepal police by a former Dutch diplomat who has been stalking him. However, the judges ignored the contention as well as other discrepancies pointed out by Thapa, who was dubbed the "Devil" by state lawyers because of her spirited defence.
Thapa and Nihita stormed out of the court after the verdict, calling it a mockery of justice. "We are pinning our hopes on Geneva", Nihita said, referring to the complaint made by Sobhraj at the UN High Commission of Human Rights about his being framed and being sentenced without a fair trial. Earlier, Sobhraj had also indicated a possibility of appealing against the Supreme Court verdict and asking for a full bench – comprising at least three judges – to hear the case again. However, given his dismal failure to sway three courts, a full bench is not likely to overturn the guilty verdict.
Though there was no immediate reaction from Sobhraj, prison sources said he was glued to his television set where the trial has been given prime time space. The verdict would come as a glancing blow to him since till yesterday, he refused to believe that he would be found guilty. "There is no evidence against me," he had been saying.
The judgment however was hailed by the prosecution that called it the triumph of truth. "It shows that however tricky a case and however cunning the accused may be, justice ultimately prevails," said Shree Krishna Bhattarai, one of the state lawyers fighting to get Sobhraj convicted. "It was also a moment of triumph for us since we put in intense labour in our argument, detailing the trials in Indian courts. We sweated it out to produce a 137-page summing up and it wielded result."
Sobhraj, sentenced to serve 20 years, has already completed about seven years. Instead of remaining in prison for 13 more years, he could be released earlier due to his age and remission due to good behaviour.
With Friday's verdict Nepal becomes the only country to decisively find him guilty of murder. Though linked to 12 to 30 killings, mostly of European tourists, he had never been found guilty in court of murder, despite being branded with the tag "Bikini Killer". 

A file report :TOI: Charles Sobhraj, once known as the “Bikini Killer” and “Serpent” is behind bar but that has not stopped him in falling in love with a 20-year-old Nepali girl Nihita Biswas and he even tied the knot with her on the very pious day of Hindus. However his marries has been questioned by Nepal prison authorities.
The 20-year-old woman triggered a media frenzy on Thursday, calling up a well-known newspaper office in New Delhi and claiming that she had got married “in traditional Nepali style” to the 64-year-old convicted killer inside Kathmandu’s Central Jail on Thursday. It was confirmed by her elder brother Vijay Thapa, who however said that the “wedding” was a “very brief ceremony” and “much more still needed to be done”.
The prison authorities dismissed the claim on Friday, saying they had allowed Nihita and her family only to conduct a tika ceremony, along with the relatives of hundreds of other prisoners. It was not a wedding but part of the ongoing Dashain festival, when elders put the vermilion mark on the foreheads of those younger to them to signify their blessings.
Prison guards, who have been keeping watch over Sobhraj since 2003, when he was arrested for the murder of an American backpacker in 1975 and put behind bars, told TNN that they had seen the Frenchman go through the same antics at least four times before.
According to them, he would tell them that he was ready to pay a monthly “salary” of NRS 3000-4000 for a goffer, who would be required to buy his food stuff and convey his messages to his lawyers and others. The excuse would get him in contact with young Nepali women.
“There were at least four young Nepali girls before Nihita,” the policemen said. “They all claimed to have relations with him. One of them even wore a ring, saying they had been married.”
The policemen said that the women distanced themselves from Sobhraj when they realised that he was not the fabulously rich man he was made out to be. “We have heard him repeatedly call up his French wife and plead with her to send him money. She sends lump sums from time to time on which he subsists.”
TOI: On Thursday, Nepal celebrated Bada Dashami, the 10th day of its biggest Hindu festival
Dashain, traditionally regarded as an auspicious day for weddings. While pairs headed for temples to say “I do”, for 64-year-old Sobhraj, it was a more sombre ceremony in Kathmandu’s Central Jail where he has been serving a life sentence for murder.
The bride wore a pink T-shirt and trousers while Sobhraj kept his trademark cap as they exchanged vows and tikas, the red vermilion mark. He was allowed to come out of his cell and in the presence of curious prison guards and other inmates, the short ceremony was conducted to make them husband and wife.
The "marriage" comes after their engagement in July following Nihita's visit to the prison to offer to interpret for Sobhraj's visiting French lawyer, a visit which both say resulted in love at first sight.
However, like the whirlwind romance that was marked by controversy, the wedding is also going to be controversial. There was no priest though the bride’s brother and mother Shakuntala Thapa turned up to show their support. Thapa, a leading lawyer, is also fighting Sobhraj’s case in Supreme Court, challenging a lower court decision that declared him guilty of the murder of an American backpacker, Connie Jo Bronzich, in 1975.
Sobhraj’s appeal will be heard on October 19, after Nepal’s courts reopen after the long holiday break. If he is set free by the apex court, as Nihita claims it will, the couple plan to proceed to France and get married in accordance with French laws.
The wedding is Sobhraj’s second one, though in between he had several girlfriends and a common law wife of Chinese origin with whom he has a daughter. The newlyweds have decided that the daughter, now six, will live with them.
Sobhraj’s only recorded and official wedding was to a French woman who divorced him during his imprisonment in India and later married an American.  Hatchand Bhaonani Gurumukh Charles Sobhraj (born April 6, 1944), better known as Charles Sobhraj, is a French serial killer of Indian and Vietnamese origin, who preyed on Western tourists throughout Southeast Asia during the 1970s. Nicknamed "the Serpent" and "the Bikini killer" for his skill at deception and evasion, he allegedly committed at least 12 murders. He was convicted and jailed in India from 1976 to 1997, but managed to live a life of leisure even in prison. After his release, he retired as a celebrity in Paris; he unexpectedly returned to Nepal, where he was arrested, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment on August 12, 2004.
While Sobhraj is widely believed to be a psychopath—he has a manipulative personality and is incapable of remorse—his motives for killing differed from those of most serial killers. Sobhraj was not driven to murder by deep-seated, violent impulses, but as a means to sustain his lifestyle of adventure. That, as well as his cunning and cultured personality, made him a celebrity long before his release from prison. Sobhraj enjoyed the attention, charging large amounts of money for interviews and film rights; he has been the subject of four books and three documentaries. His search for attention and his overconfidence in his own intelligence are believed responsible for his return to a country where authorities were still eager to arrest him.
Early years
Sobhraj was born as Gurmukh Sobhraj to an unwed Vietnamese mother and an Indian father (Sindhi tailor) in Saigon. The father soon deserted the family. The mother blamed the child. Stateless at first, he was adopted by his mother's new boyfriend, a French army lieutenant stationed in Indochina. However, he was neglected in favour of the couple's later children. Sobhraj continued to move back and forth between France and Indochina with the family, not feeling at home in either place. As a teenager he developed personality problems and turned to petty crime.
Sobhraj received his first jail sentence (for burglary) in 1963, serving at Poissy prison near Paris. However, not only did he weather the harsh conditions of jail, he managed to manipulate the prison official into granting him special favours like being allowed to keep books in his cell, etc. At around the same time he met and endeared himself to Felix d'Escogne.
After being paroled, Sobhraj moved in with d'Escogne and shared his time between moving in the high society of Paris and the criminal underworld. He soon started accumulating riches through a series of scams and burglaries. During this time, he met and began a relationship with Chantal who was from a conservative Parisian family. On the night he proposed to her, Sobhraj was arrested for evading police while driving a stolen car. He was sentenced back to prison time in Poissy for eight months. Chantal remained supportive during his prison time. Sobhraj and Chantal were married upon his release.
Soon after, facing mounting suspicions by French authorities, he and a now pregnant Chantal left France for Asia to escape arrest. After travelling through Eastern Europe on fake documents and robbing people who befriended them, they arrived around in Bombay in 1970. Here Chantal gave birth to a baby girl.While in Bombay, the couple made a good impression on the expatriate community there. In the meantime, Sobhraj resumed his criminal lifestyle by running a car theft and smuggling operation. The profits from this operation of which were used towards his growing gambling addiction.
In 1970, Sobhraj was arrested and imprisoned after a unsuccessful armed robbery attempt on a jewellery store in Hotel Ashoka. Sobhraj did manage to escape with Chantal's help and faking illness, but they were re-captured shortly afterwards. He borrowed money for bail from his father in Saigon and soon after fled to Kabul in Afghanistan.
In Kabul, the couple continued robbing tourists on the "hippie trail" only to be arrested once again. But Sobhraj escaped, the same way he had in India, feigning illness and drugging the hospital guard. This time Sobhraj fled to Iran leaving his family behind. Chantal, although still loyal to him, wishing to leave their criminal past behind, returned to France and vowed never see him again.
Sobhraj spent the next two years on the run, using as many as 10 stolen passports and visiting several countries in East Europe and the Middle East. He was joined in Istanbul by André, his younger brother. Sobhraj and André quickly became partners in many crimes in both Turkey and Greece. Both were eventually arrested in Athens. After an identity-switch plan gone wrong, Sobhraj escaped in his usual manner. But he left his brother behind. André was turned over to the Turkish police by Greek authorities. He had to serve an 18-year sentence
On the run again, Sobhraj financed his lifestyle by posing as a mysterious drug dealer to impress tourists and defrauding them when they let their guard down. In Thailand, he met Marie-Andrée Leclerc from Lévis, Quebec, one of many tourists looking for adventure in the East. Subjugated by Sobhraj's personality, Leclerc quickly became his most devoted follower, turning a blind eye to his crimes and his philandering with local women.
Sobhraj started gathering followers by helping them out of difficult situations, indebting them to him while he actually was the very cause of their misery. In one case, he helped two former French policemen, named Yannick and Jacques, to recover their passports that he himself had stolen; in another, he provided shelter and comfort to another Frenchman named Dominique Rennelleau, whose apparent dysentery illness was actually the results of poisoning by Sobhraj. He was also joined by a young Indian named Ajay Chowdhury, a fellow criminal who became his lieutenant. Sobhraj wanted to start a criminal "family" of sorts, in the style of Charles Manson's.
It was then that Sobhraj and Chowdhury committed their first (known) murders in 1975. Most of the victims had spent some time with the "clan" before their deaths and were, according to some investigators, potential recruits who had threatened to expose Sobhraj. The first victim was a young woman from Seattle, Teresa Knowlton, who was found burned like many of Sobhraj's other victims. Soon thereafter, a young American Jennie Bollivar, was found drowned in a tidal pool in the Gulf of Thailand, wearing a flowered bikini. It was only months later that the autopsy and forensic evidence revealed the drowning to be murder.
The next victim was a young, nomadic Sephardic Jew named Vitali Hakim, whose burned body was found on the road to the Pattaya resort where Sobhraj and his clan were staying.
Dutch students Henk Bintanja, 29, and his fiancée Cornelia Hemker, 25, were invited to Thailand after meeting Sobhraj in Hong Kong. Just as he had done to Dominique, Sobhraj poisoned them, and then nurtured them back to health to gain their obedience. As they recovered, Sobhraj was visited by his previous victim Hakim's French girlfriend, Charmayne Carrou, coming to investigate her boyfriend's disappearance. Fearing exposure, Sobhraj and Chowdhury quickly hustled the couple out; their bodies were found strangled and burned on December 16, 1975. Soon after, Carrou was found drowned in circumstances similar to Jennie's, and wearing a similar-styled swimsuit. Although the murders of both women were not connected by investigations at the time, they would later earn Sobhraj the nickname of "the bikini killer."
On December 18, the day the bodies of Bintanja and Hemker were identified, Sobhraj and Leclerc entered Nepal using the couple's passports. There they met and, on December 21-22, murdered Canadian Laurent Ormond Carrière, 26 and Californian Connie Bronzich, 29. (The two victims were incorrectly identified in some sources as Laddie DuParr and Annabella Tremont.) Sobhraj and Leclerc then returned to Thailand, once again using their latest victims' passport before their bodies could be identified.
Upon his return to Thailand, Sobhraj discovered that his three French companions had started to suspect him, found documents belonging to the murder victims, and fled to Paris after notifying local authorities.
Sobhraj then went to Calcutta, where he murdered Israeli scholar Avoni Jacob for his passport, and used it to move to Singapore with Leclerc and Chowdhury, then to India and - rather boldly - back to Bangkok in March 1976. There they were interrogated by Thai policemen in connection with the murders, but easily let off the hook because authorities feared that the negative publicity accompanying a murder trial would harm the country's tourist trade.
Not so easily silenced, however, was Dutch embassy diplomat Herman Knippenberg, who was investigating the murder of the two Dutch backpackers, and suspected Sobhraj even though he did not know his real name. Knippenberg started to build a case against him, partly with the help of Sobhraj's neighbour. Given police permission to conduct his own search of Sobhraj's apartment (a full month after the suspect had left the country), Knippenberg found a great deal of evidence, such as victims' documents and poison-laced medicines. He would from then on accumulate evidence against Sobhraj for decades, despite the lack of cooperation by law enforcement.
The trio's next stop was in Malaysia, where Chowdhury was sent on a gem-stealing errand, and disappeared after giving the jewels to Sobhraj. No trace of him was ever found, and it is widely believed that Sobhraj murdered his former accomplice before leaving with Leclerc to sell the jewels in Geneva.
Soon back in Asia, Sobhraj started rebuilding his clan, starting in Bombay with two lost Western women named Barbara Sheryl Smith and Mary Ellen Eather. His next victim was Frenchman Jean-Luc Solomon, who succumbed to the poison intended to incapacitate him during a robbery.
In July 1976 in New Delhi, Sobhraj and the three women tricked a tour group of post-graduate French students into accepting them as guides. He then drugged them with pills which he pretended were anti-dysentery medicine. However, when the drugs started acting too quickly and the students started dropping unconscious where they stood, three of them quickly realized what was happening and overcame Sobhraj, leading to his capture by police. During interrogation, Barbara and Mary Ellen quickly cracked and confessed everything. Sobhraj was charged with the murder of Solomon, and all four were sent to Tihar prison outside New Delhi while awaiting formal trial.
Conditions inside the notorious prison were unbearable; both Barbara and Mary Ellen attempted suicide during the two years before their trial. Sobhraj, however, had entered with precious gems concealed in his body and was experienced in bribing captors and living comfortably in jail.
Sobhraj turned his trial into a show, hiring and firing lawyers at whim, bringing in his recently-paroled and still-loyal brother André to help, and eventually going on a hunger strike. He was nonetheless sentenced to 12 years in prison instead of the expected death penalty. Leclerc was found guilty of the drugging of the French students, then later paroled and returned to Canada when she developed ovarian cancer. She was still claiming her innocence, and reportedly still loyal to Sobhraj, when she died at home in April 1984.
Sobhraj's systematic bribery of prison guards at Tihar reached outrageous levels. He led a life of luxury inside the jail, with TV, and gourmet food, having befriended both the guards and the prisoners. He would walk in and out of jail whenever he wanted in his notoriety, he gave interviews to Western authors and journalists, such as Oz magazine's Richard Neville in the late 1970s, and Alan Dawson in 1984. He freely talked about his murders, while never actually admitting to them, and pretended that his actions were in retaliation against Western imperialism in Asia, an excuse which most criminologists find highly doubtful.
He also needed to find a way to prolong his sentence, since the 20-year Thai arrest warrant against him would still be valid on his intended release date, leading to his deportation and almost certain execution. So in March 1986, on his tenth year in prison, he threw a big party for his prisoner and guard friends and, having drugged them with sleeping pills, walked out of the jail.
Shobhraj was quickly caught in Goa and had his prison term prolonged by 10 years, just as he had hoped. On February 17, 1997, 52-year old Sobhraj was released, with most warrants, evidence and even witnesses against him long lost. Without any country to deport him to, Indian authorities let him return to France.
Celebrity and re-capture
Sobhraj retired to a comfortable life in suburban Paris. He hired a publicity agent and charged large sums of money for interviews and photographs. He is said to have charged over $15 million for the rights to a movie based on his life
In September 17, 2003 Sobhraj was unexpectedly spotted in a street of Kathmandu by a journalist. The journalist quickly reported this to the Nepalese authorities who arrested him two days later in the casino of the Yak and Yeti hotel. Sobhraj's motives for returning to Nepal remain unknown. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Kathmandu district court in August 20, 2004 for the 1975 murders of Bronzich and Carrière. Most of the evidence used against him in this case was drawn from that painstakingly gathered by Knippenberg and Interpol.
Sobhraj appealed against the conviction claiming that he was sentenced without trial. His lawyer also announced that Chantal, Sobhraj's wife in France, was filing a case before the European Court of Human Rights against the French government, for refusing to provide him with any assistance.
Sobhraj's conviction was confirmed by the Kathmandu Court of Appeals in 2005.
In late 2007, news media reported that Sobhraj's lawyer had appealed to the current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, for intervention with Nepal. Sobhraj's lawyer claims that he has been the victim of racism. In 2008, Sobhraj announced his engagement to Nihita Biswas (aged 20) from Nepal. The couple have announced marriage in France if Sobhraj was released by the Nepalese supreme court. On 7 July, 2008, issuing a press release through his fiancee Nihita, he claimed that was never convicted of murder by any court and asked media not to refer to him as a serial killer. Later, it has been claimed that he married his fiancee Nihita Biswas on October 9, 2008, on the occasion of Bada Dashami, a Nepalese festival, in a much famed, but not publicised wedding, that took place in the jail itself. On the following day, Nepal jail authorities dismissed the claim of his marriage. They said that Nihita and her family had been allowed to conduct a tika ceremony, along with the relatives of hundreds of other prisoners. They further claimed that it was not a wedding but part of the ongoing Dashain festival, when elders put the vermilion mark on the foreheads of those younger to them to signify their blessings.
* Julie Clarke & Richard Neville (1980). The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj. Pan Macmillan.
* Thomas Thompson (1979). Serpentine. Carroll & Graf Publishers.
* Julie Clarke & Richard Neville (1989). Shadow of the Cobra. Penguin Books Ltd.
* Farrukh Dhondy (2008). The Bikini Murders. Harper Collins India.

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