Defiant ‘Mrs Sobhraj’ takes on the world

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Defying the new wave of negative publicity following her claim that she had married yesteryears’ “Bikini killer” Charles Sobhraj in a traditional Nepali ceremony in prison Thursday, Nihita Biswas, the 20-year-old Nepali woman, Sunday strode into Kathmandu’s Central Prison saying she was visiting her “husband”.

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Nihita, who shot into limelight this year after her surprise engagement to Sobhraj, flaunted a pote, the string of beads married Nepali women wear, akin to the mangalsutra traditionally worn by Indian wives, and when signing her name in the visitors’ register, firmly wrote “Nihita Sobhraj Biswas”.

In the box asking her to describe her relationship with Sobhraj, she wrote without hesitation: “wife”.

The previous week, when she had visited the 64-year-old in Kathmandu’s central jail, she had written her name in the same register as “Nihita Biswas”. At that time, she had called herself his “friend”.

A cluster of reporters swooped down on her as she walked out of the prison in the afternoon after a brief meeting with her new “husband”, who looked gaunt and tired. However, she refused to answer the questions shot at her, asking her if she was really married.

Wearing an un-bride-like black jeans and brown T-shirt, Nihita was accompanied by her mother, Shakuntala Thapa, a leading lawyer who is now defending Sobhraj against the life term slapped on him by Kathmandu’s district court four years ago for the murder of an American tourist in 1975, and a young Nepali man.

Family sources said now that the traditional wedding is complete, the couple will move to register it with the district administration once Nepal’s administrative departments, courts and the French Embassy reopen after the long Dashain holiday.

The Himalayan Times daily, which had in 2003 first spotted Sobhraj in Kathmandu’s tourist hub Thamel and published his photographs that led to his arrest, Sunday quoted an advocate as doubting if a convict could get married inside prison.

While prison authorities have dismissed Nihita’s claim, saying the pair had only been allowed to undertake a brief tika ceremony that is part of the Dashain celebrations, the underlings, however, have been regarding the act as a consummated marriage.

“You can’t meet Sobhraj now,” the police woman posted at the prison for women visitors told the IANS correspondent. “He is now with his wife.”

However, the Nihita incident has decidedly given a jolt to prison authorities, especially after her allegations to the media that she had received kidnap threats from other prisoners after Sobhraj refused extortion demands.

Unfortunately, the action recoiled on Sobhraj, who now faces greater scrutiny in prison. His prison cell was changed and his visiting rights have been drastically curtailed.

Nihita, who in the past would spend the whole day in prison talking and having lunch with Sobhraj, is now curtly asked to end her visit after half an hour.

Sobhraj, prison sources said, has also had a tough time with his first wife.

Though they are divorced now, she still has a soft spot for him. She has been helping him out from Paris, where she lives, with money, documents and legal advice.

She knew about the engagement but the “wedding” has come as a shock to her since she was under the impression that the ceremony would take place only after he was acquitted.