Sobhraj finds love in Nepal - with a 20-year-old

July 3rd, 2008 - 11:36 am ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 3 (IANS) Arrested during a visit to Nepal five years ago and sent to prison for life for the murder of an American backpacker during the hippie era, criminal mastermind Charles Sobhraj has finally found a silver lining in his ordeal - love. The 64-year-old has cast the remnants of his old charm from behind bars on a Nepali belle and the two are now engaged.

It is a winter-spring romance with Sobhraj’s new love being a 20-year-old who has just completed school and was toying with the idea of pursuing a career in political journalism.

Articulate, pretty and determined, Nihita Biswas is the result of a mixed marriage between a Bengali from Kolkata and a successful Nepali career woman, just like Sobhraj, the son of a Sindhi tailor and a Vietnamese mother.

The two met three months ago in Kathmandu’s central jail, where Sobhraj is serving his prison sentence. His French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre was arriving in Kathmandu from Paris to inspect the status of their appeal against the life term and Sobhraj was looking for someone intelligent and reliable who could act as her guide and interpreter.

“It sounded like a good job,” says Nihita, who was told about the assignment by someone who knew both Sobhraj and her. Unfortunately, when she arrived at the prison, the lawyer had already left.

But when she introduced herself to Sobhraj, it was a case of love at first sight for both.

Though he no longer needed an interpreter, Sobhraj did not want to lose sight of her and pretended he had an assignment for her.

“He gave me a list of things he wanted me to buy for him,” Nihita laughs. “It was an enormous list.”

That’s how the courtship started and after a month, Nihita was visiting him regularly, sharing lunch and his plans.

Then she broke the news to her mother and took her to the prison to meet the man she loved.

“I am a human rights activist,” Nihita’s mother told IANS. “I think Sobhraj was sent to prison without any evidence to prove he had committed the murder. He was convicted by the media that made a mountain out of a molehill. My daughter is an adult and free to decide whom to marry. If she is happy then I am happy too.”

Nihita and Sobhraj have exchanged rings and become engaged. He is confident that his appeal against the “guilty” verdict will be overturned by Nepal’s Supreme Court and he will be released this year.

If that happens, the lovers are planning a Hindu ceremony in Kathmandu, to be followed by a civil and legal ceremony in Paris, where Sobhraj has been living since he was deported from India in the 80s.

Nihita says she is neither bothered by the age difference nor her fiance’s past criminal record.

“I don’t know what he was,” she says firmly. “But I know what he is now. He is a good and caring man and that’s what’s important.”

Though suspected of murder of over 20 backpackers in different countries, Sobhraj was convicted only of manslaughter in India where he served a 21-year jail term in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

After his release in 1997, he was deported to France. He became a celebrity criminal, garnering media attention in the Indian subcontinent and France.

Then in 2003, Sobhraj was arrested in Nepal and convicted of murdering American Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975. He is fighting his final appeal against the sentence in Nepal’s Supreme Court.

The case revived interest in the man once dubbed the “Bikini Killer” and “Serpent” by the tabloid press. Bollywood, India’s megabuck film industry, is planning a film on his life.

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