April 10, 1999 9:30:45 am
Shivani,a principal correspondent with The Indian Express and an intrepid member of the newspaper’s Special Investigative Team,was found murdered in her Patparganj (East Delhi) residence this evening. She is survived by her two-month-old son and her husband Rakesh Bhatnagar,legal editor with The Times of India. She was 31.
Police said that Shivani was alone with her baby when she was attacked. Although police are yet to confirm how many people attacked her,given the nature of her injuries,they said there could be more than one. There were strangulation marks on her neck and stab injuries in the chest and abdomen. Besides a piece of electric wire,two knives — from her kitchen — and the broken handle of a frying pan were found near the body.
According to police,the killers didn’t seem to have forced their way in. Two cups with tea were found in the kitchen,some biscuits and dry fruits in a tray. The bedroom was ransacked,a suitcase was found half-open on the bed. Themattress was overturned and the box bed had also been rummaged through. The drawers and the cupboards in the room were turned inside out. Police have found blood-stained fingerprints and footprints in the room.
Her body was found lying on the bedroom floor by her brother-in-law V S Bhatnagar at 5.15 pm when he forced the door open. The baby lay crying on the bed.
V S Bhatnagar,a businessman in Chandigarh,said that he had come to visit Shivani and her family yesterday and was staying over. He had left the house early this morning. “I returned at 4.30,I had a spare key which refused to turn,so I went to the Patparganj market to call Shivani’s husband and also spoke to a shop-keeper about the lock,” said Bhatnagar.
According to him,Rakesh suggested that he turn the key again and then push the door because it usually got stuck. Finally,at 5.15 pm,said V S Bhatnagar,he was able to get in and discover the body. He then informed Rakesh. The maid told the police that she left the house around 2p.m.
According to her husband,Shivani called him up around 3.30 pm saying that someone claiming to be from a regional newspaper had come with a wedding invitation and a box of sweets. “I asked my wife to put him on the line. He identified himself as some Sharma and said that some Mr Adhikari had sent him from Chandigarh,” said Rakesh Bhatnagar. “I said I don’t know any Adhikari and asked him to leave the invitation behind and go. I told Shivani to keep the invitation card. This was the last time I spoke to her.”
Shivani was taken to the Swami Dayanand hospital where she was declared dead at 7.20 pm. According to doctors,she had bled to death at least two hours before being brought to the hospital. The post-mortem is scheduled for tomorrow. The case has been handed over to the Crime Branch.
According to DCP (Crime) Karnal Singh,”No valuables are apparently missing. The ransacking seems to be a deliberate attempt to mislead the police.”
Shivani,who joined The Indian Express two years ago,was one of the newspaper’s finest reporters with several exclusive stories to her credit. Her report on the “biscuit scam” highlighted the alleged nexus between Haryana government officers and contractors in siphoning off money meant for the purchase of biscuits for malnourished mothers and infants. A CBI probe was ordered following her story. Another of her stories which forced the Government to act was on the United Front Government’s attempt to make it more difficult for citizens to file a Public Interest Litigation by putting a mandatory fee. The Government had to withdraw its proposal after the story. A recipient of the British Chevening Scholarship last year,Shivani covered the Supreme Court,the Law Ministry and the CBI on a regular basis.
“We have lost an upcoming and bright journalist whose career has been cut short,” said Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan. Minister of State for I&B Mukhtar Naqvi condoled her death.
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