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My friend Soumya Vishwanathan’s case drags on, will it fade into oblivion?


By Tavleen Singh Aroor

I first met Soumya Viswanathan in 2005. She was my guide at the India Today Group’s media school, someone who showed me the ropes and made the complexities of TV production look effortless. She always bubbled with life and it seems unbelievable that she is no more.

Soon, it will be seven years since Soumya was shot dead, and there is still no justice. Soumya’s case faces the threat that close to three crore pending cases encounter in the Indian judicial process – the slow fading into oblivion.

The public prosecutor in the case Rajiv Mohan quit to pursue his private legal practice in October 2014. So far, the state government hasn’t assigned a replacement, effectively putting the case on ice.

When news of Mohan’s withdrawal came, Soumya’s parents sought the media’s help in approaching the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. They were assured quick redress. A public prosecutor would be appointed immediately, they were told. But the absence of a government in Delhi soon after and the continuing battle for control in the national capital between the CM and Lieutanant Governor has left this assurance hanging in limbo.

The soft-spoken, gracious and hospitable parents remained courageous even on the day their daughter was murdered. They have waged a quiet battle for justice far from the unflinching media glare. They never complained. Process was process, they always told themselves. They believe the wheels of due diligence would turn and justice would be served. But even they are getting worried now, losing hope with every passing day.

Soumya with her father

I remember the turn of events on September 30, 2008 vividly. A few hours before I finished work around midnight, Soumya had asked me for a stand-up on the Malegaon blast. I gave her the tape with my recorded version little knowing that it was the last time I would see her.

An hour later, Soumya had taken two bullets to the head only a few kilometres from her home. She had been chased and murdered while driving back from work.

An uproar followed. The fact that Soumya was a journalist and the media spotlight on the case helped speed up the investigation. The Delhi Police was under immense pressure.

The evening after Soumya was murdered, I interviewed the then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. She remarked to me: ‘Girls shouldn’t be so adventurous (driving home late and alone). This sparked enormous public anger, thrusting the case firmly into the public consciousness.

A “Justice for Soumya” campaign exploded across cities, with petitions and signature campaigns reaching the doors of Sheila Dikshit and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

Six months later, the Delhi Police announced that the case had been cracked. The four men who murdered Soumya and also killed another girl Jigisha Ghosh were finally in police custody.

But the trial has continued for over six years now and every time I agonize about the lack of justice for Soumya, I cannot help reminiscing about our time at India Today. She taught me how to turn out scripts quickly and navigate the maze of software that a newsroom revolves around.

Night shifts threw us even closer. We drove to work together late at night from the South Delhi neighbourhood that was our home and returned home just after sunrise. It was on one of these rides that I met her parents for the first time. “I have packed 10 idlis for you all,” her father once shouted to me from their balcony.

Soumya took a year away from the India Today group, but returned to a bigger role and more responsibilities. I remember the joy in the newsroom the morning that she returned. It was unanimous. A talented, hardworking and amazingly gentle person had returned to work among us.

I had moved on from the role of a TV Producer that she had mentored me for and was now a reporter. Our work paths diverged, but we always kept in touch on the phone. Always.

It is difficult for me to come to terms that I will not receive a call from “S.V” ever. That is how Soumya’s name was saved on my phone. I will not be able to hear her voice, talk to her about work or just inane things, laugh over silly jokp9es or share gossip with.

A young life has been brought to a brutal and abrupt end. Worse is the fact that her parents are being forced to go from pillar to post seeking justice.

Soumya’s parents are now hoping that the same public prosecutor returns. They wish he had never left. “Rajiv Mohan knows the case well and has been deeply involved,” says Soumya’s mother.

The police chanced upon cracking Soumya’s murder case while interrogating Ravi and his killer accomplices for the murder of IT professional Jigisha Ghosh in March 2009.

Sadly, Jigisha’s parents are broken and worn out. They do not talk to anyone and are too scared to speak to the media about their daughter’s case. They fear for their own lives in the event that the accused killers get bail.

And there it stands. The wheels of justice will only turn once again when the Jigisha Ghosh murder case moves forward. Both the cases are linked. Justice too.

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