On May 9, 2003, Madhumita Shukla, a poet, was found murdered at her home in Paper Mill Colony in Lucknow’s Nishatganj area. Shukla was in a relationship with Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Amarmani Tripathi and was carrying his child at the time of the murder. Tripathi was arrested and later his wife Madhumani was also made a co-accused. In July 2012, a special court in Dehradun upheld the life imprisonment awarded to the Tripathis by a lower court in Lucknow.
A recently released documentary Love Kills- Madhumati Shukla Hatyakaand has shed some light on the case, which had received unprecedented media coverage when it happened. In an interview to THE WEEK, Madhumita’s sister Nidhi Shukla alleges that the film is fictionalised and will impact the case negatively. Nidhi has filed a contempt of court petition in the Supreme Court against the Tripathis, alleging that they spend more time outside the jail than inside it. Meanwhile, the convicts have filed a number of mercy petitions on various grounds.
Excerpts from an interview with Nidhi Shukla.
Have you watched the documentary based on your sister’s murder? What is your view of it?
I haven’t been able to watch all of it. But whatever little I have seen, I would say it is fictionalised, exaggerated, false and embellished in parts. I did not see the final cut before its release. So much of what is shown in the documentary shall impact our case negatively. Earlier there was a book (Poetry, Passion, Power: The Story of Madhumita; 2004) written on Madhumita’s murder, but no efforts were made to contact me. There are many who, for their two minutes of fame, have tried to exploit my sister’s murder.
At many places (in the documentary), your statements juxtaposed against those of others appear to be lies. How do you respond to that?
The truth is the easiest thing to speak, for you don’t need to remember what you have said. Whatever I speak is only the truth. How it has been spliced and interpreted is not for me to bother.
For instance, in the documentary, the couple’s daughters allege that it was strange that you first went to find a lawyer, and when you couldn’t find one, you went to the police thana to report the murder.
Why will I go to find a lawyer? I have nothing to say against the daughters. Perhaps they should have asked their father why he was doing what he was with my sister. Anyway, they are in no way liable for what their parents did. All I can say is that for the last 20 years that I have been fighting this case, my line is straight—just stick to the truth.
What will be justice in your eyes?
Amarmani and Madhumani Tripathi have been awarded life sentences. For us, justice is that they stay in jail; that Amarmani’s criminal network is crushed. At present, according to the numerous RTI queries that I have filed, they have spent only 38 per cent time in jail- the rest of the time they were in the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur (constituency of the state’s CM Yogi Adityanath). Amarmani contends that he has a bone disease. Can that disease not be treated in Uttarakhand where he is supposed to be in jail?
January 26 and August 15 are supposed to be days of celebration for the entire country. But these are days on which I am most stressed, for I fear that the duo will be on the list of dreaded criminals to be released on these days.
How do you respond to the allegation that you have political backing to have been able to fight this case for this long?
Resources are not a constraint for those who love, and for those who we love. One should have the will to fight. I have that will, that love for my sister. There is great power in love. The day my sister was murdered, I did not even know how to write any application. Now when people see me, so may years later still carrying the same papers, some make fun of me. But I have no justifications to offer to anyone. This fight will continue so that people remember there was a Madhumita Shuka, there is one and that her name shall remain till eternity. Those who live in the world of logic do not have any inkling of the world of love.
Wherever Madhumita is now, what message would you like to give her?
I would seek her forgiveness, for we are still waiting for justice. I want to tell her that I will always love her and that in every lifetime I would want her to be my sister, just as I would wish to be reborn as part of this family. I also promise my sister that they who killed her shall not have a moment of peace. Someday, we shall be reunited, but only I have completed her work.
What is your message for Amarmani and Madhumani Tripathi?
I bear only ill will towards them. However, as a law abiding citizen it would never cross my mind to shoot them. I can only pray that such people should not be born. I have no wish to see them ever.
Emotionally, have you been able to move on from the tragic day?
On May 9, 2003 it was not Madhumita who was killed; it was Nidhi Shukla who died. Had I had my own life to live, I would have some dreams, desires and some hope for the future. If I had thought about myself, we wouldn’t have moved so far in the quest for justice. In fighting for her, I feel her presence. There are many challenges, but there is a strange kind of peace, too. A peace that says she lives with us till date. Amarmani could have done anything, but why murder a girl who was just a child?
In all the emotions that you feel (for eg. she washes Madhumita’s clothes every year and often holds them close to her to feel her fragrance), is there ever anger for her deep involvement with Amarmani and not sharing it with the family so that interventions could have been made?
I have no anger against her. She was 19 years, one month and 6 days old when she was murdered. The CB-CID, the CBI, courts, the media all stood by us in our search for justice. Amarmani Tripathi is the kind of person who could indoctrinate anyone. What chance did a child have in front of him? My sister was talented and very precious to me. There must have been some good deeds that I must have done for her to be in my life.
The release of the documentary and your press conference in Lucknow - do you think this is the opportune moment to start to re-build pressure for justice to be delivered?
This is not just about my sister. If her case received so little justice even after all the coverage, what can any woman/girl of this country hope for? For justice to be delivered, the system should work, but it does not. And if this system doesn’t work, there may be different laws for ordinary people, for politicians and for the mafia. Why this sham of justice?