Nepal jail authorities dismiss Sobhraj wedding as gimmick

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : A day after Charles Sobhraj’s Nepali fiancée Nihita Biswas announced that she had tied the knot with the murder convict, Nepal’s Central Jail authorities rejected the claim, calling it a gimmick to generate media hype.

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“It was simply a traditional ceremony Nepalis perform during Dashain (Nepal’s biggest Hindu festival),” a Nepal Police inspector who was in charge of the prison told IANS.

“On Thursday, we allowed all prisoners to observe Vijaya Dashami with their visiting relatives,” said the official, who did not want to be named.

“To facilitate the ceremony, we have erected a tent-like structure where prisoners are allowed to go from their cells and their relatives put the vermilion mark – tika – on their foreheads. It was a simple tika ceremony and nothing more,” he added.

Prison guards said on Thursday, Nihita, the 20-year-old woman who had created a sensation this year with the news of her engagement to the 64-year-old suspected serial killer, had come to the prison accompanied by her brother Vijay and mother Shakuntala Thapa.

Thapa, a leading lawyer, is currently defending Sobhraj in the Supreme Court, where judges are hearing his final appeal against the guilty verdict slapped on him by two lower courts for the murder of an American tourist, Connie Jo Bronzich, in 1975.

“Since the girl says she is engaged to Sobhraj and Thapa considers herself to be Sobhraj’s mother-in-law, the lawyer put the tika on Sobhraj’s forehead as his elder and he did it to Nihita and her brother,” the police official said. “The rest is simply a gimmick.”

The guards claimed that the stories that have sprung up about Sobhraj – once dubbed Bikini Killer for preying on western tourists and the Serpent for his alleged ability to escape from the most stringently guarded prisons – were sheer media hype.

“Even the tales that he is colossally rich is untrue,” one of Sobhraj’s guards said. “We see him calling up his French wife in Paris on the phone and begging her to send him money, saying he would starve otherwise.

“After such pleadings, she sends Nepali Rs.50,000-60,000 and he gets money to buy his food,” he added.

Sobhraj’s “wedding” has proved to be as controversial as his arrest and subsequent engagement in prison.

While the jail authorities say there is no legal basis behind either the engagement or “marriage”, the apparently besotted couple, who used to share their lunch in prison and spend hours talking to each other on the phone before the prison authorities slashed his visiting and phoning rights, say they are man and wife.

Sobhraj has been calling Nihita his “little wife” while she playfully calls him her “stupid husband” at times.

Nihita’s family, though first taken aback by her announcement that she wanted to marry a man who is old enough to be her grandfather and has spent more than half his life in prison, has rallied around her and accepted the French national as part of the family.

If the Supreme Court acquits Sobhraj, the “newlyweds” plan to fly out to France, where they will first get married in accordance with French laws and then write a book on their romance, which will be followed by a documentary, both of which, Sobhraj claims, will be a moneyspinner.