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The man and his horrific crime

A file photo of Tandoor murder case convict Sushil Sharma whose death penalty was commuted to life term by the Supreme Court.

A file photo of Tandoor murder case convict Sushil Sharma whose death penalty was commuted to life term by the Supreme Court.   | Photo Credit: PTI

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Meeting the ‘tandoor murder case’ killer and his family

When I entered Sushil Kumar Sharma’s drawing room one cold winter afternoon in December, he was wearing a deep blue jacket and sitting cross-legged on a cot, talking on the phone.

I waited nervously. Sharma is a former youth Congress leader and MLA, but he was no ordinary interviewee. He had been released from prison only a few days before our meeting, 23 years after he was arrested and then convicted for killing his partner Naina Sahni, also an aspiring politician.

The crime shocked the nation, but the gruesome manner in which Sharma disposed of Sahni’s body was especially chilling. Sharma suspected that Sahni was having an affair. After a heated argument one night, he shot her dead. And then, to hide the crime, he chopped her body into pieces and burnt it in a tandoor (clay oven) in a restaurant. The case led to non-stop chatter in newsrooms given that it involved a politician, an alleged affair, and a gruesome killing.

I have been a crime reporter for only over a year. Sharma’s release naturally piqued my curiosity. What kind of a person was he then and how had he changed? Was he scary, as we imagine killers to be? Did a person who had once been so unimaginably vile have normal human emotions? Did he remember that night vividly? I wanted to meet Sharma, much to my mother’s dismay. I spoke to the legal reporter who had covered his release. A few calls were made and I was on my way to Sharma’s house in Delhi’s Pitampura the next morning. I had previously reported of murder cases from a distance. Sharma was the first man I was going to meet who had been convicted of murder and released.

The house was locked from the inside. The family didn’t want to entertain too many people. I peeped inside and saw Sharma’s 80-year-old mother’s smiling face. She looked at me and asked an attendant to unlock the door. Greetings were exchanged and she pointed to the room where he was sitting.

My heart skipped a few beats. Sharma finished his call and greeted me with a handshake and a smile. “There are two types of criminals,” he began, his lawyer seated next to us. “Those who are naturally criminal-minded and those who do something in a rage.” Sharma said he was full of regret, especially for making his parents’ life “a living hell”. He said he had contemplated suicide. “But I slowly learnt that I was suffering as a consequence of my own actions and accepted that fact while in prison,” he said.

After speaking to Sharma for an hour and a half, I stepped outside, my muscles relaxed. The first thing I did was to text my mother. “It’s done,” I said. “Nothing to worry. He is not scary.”

The interview was not intimidating or nerve-wracking as I had thought it would be. Sharma’s crime was horrific, but to the extent that one can take appearance to be the reality, he seemed a changed man, keen to look ahead. As I drove back to work, I realised that it wasn’t the things he said that stuck in my mind; it was what his mother said. “Our life span has now increased by 10 years,” she said of herself and her husband. Sharma had committed the crime but they also suffered the consequences. My heart went out to them.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 8:30:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-man-and-his-horrific-crime/article25874500.ece

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