Nitish Katara and Bharti Yadav- friends or more than that?
Before talking about the judicial loopholes, Neelam Katara, who is a retired Kendriya Vidyalaya Deputy Commissioner, talk about her son Nitish. The 23 year old's smiling portrait hangs in the drawing room of a home, which is empty now but has memories scattered in each corner in terms of photographs and books. “He said that Bharti and he had the same sense of humour and that she had no airs in spite of where she comes from. Similarly, Bharati, was fascinated by our world. For birthdays we used to go out and have dinner but Bharti doesn't remember a time when her father had taken them out for such outings,” remembers Neelam Katara. This relationship later became the reason for the demise of a young man who believed in upholding the truth and wanted to give a girl her independence as “she was scared that her family would marry her off to someone like them”.
After three years of the murder, Bharti Yadav gave her statement to the court that she and Nitish were just friend but she did not deny to the 78 cards and letters she had written to Nitish during the course of their “friendship”.
Sadly, the friendship cost Nitish his life. What followed was a grueling session of legal battle that India had witnessed to put the perpetrators behind the bar.
Current Status of the case
Returning to the present, when I ask her about the current status of the case, Mrs Katara says, “The three convicts (Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan) have been convicted for life. They have appealed against the verdict and the sentence of the trial court. Their appeal was heard and on the 16 th of April 2013 but have been reserved for order. When the order comes on these three and if it is in our favour, then the court will hear our appeal for stricter punishment”.
The challenges faced in the judiciary system
The Yadavs are not only rich but when the murder was committed, D P Yadav was a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha. So, was it difficult facing a family with strong criminal ties and political background? Katara agrees saying, “The whole judicial air was very new to me but my education taught me to ask questions. It has been a learning experience and I am still learning. If you are up against such a family, with criminal history, then they know all the loopholes. They can try and subvert the process of justice. People with money also try and delay the process as much as they can and this is where the common man gets bogged down.”
Such a long struggle tends to affect our belief system but Neelam Katara is no ordinary women. She says, “I believe we have a very sound judiciary system; very competent judges and it works. It works in spite of the fact that it is heavily overloaded. The sheer number of cases that a single judge has to handle is huge. It's not the judiciary on its own- it’s the police and the judiciary, which has to act together and sometimes for various reasons, the police does not function well. So judicial, police and electoral reforms are needed and I believe that the fault is not as much with the judiciary as with the people, who come to the court. They can turn things around.”
So how did a mother wage war against a family so powerful, so connected and so rich? We continue to hear her story in awe. Stay with us for In Conversation with Neelam Katara: An inspiring story of legal battle - Part 2