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Reviled as daughter-killer, Indrani Mukerjea is now a stick to beat the Chidambarams with

Indrani Mukerjea is a survivor and her allegations against the Chidambarams may well be a part of her strategy to save herself or reduce her sentence.

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There is a 2018 video of Indrani Mukerjea on Times Now in which she alleges that she met P. Chidambaram and his son Karti, and the latter asked for a bribe of $1 million. Her eyes are sparkling, the hair is dyed black again, her accent is clipped, and there’s a little smile playing on her lips.

Arrested in 2015 for allegedly killing her daughter, everyone had almost forgotten Indrani Mukerjea except perhaps Arnab Goswami, who resurrects her hashtag from time to time.

But Indrani is now back in the news as well as in drawing room conversations with the arrest of P. Chidambaram in the INX Media case.

There is no doubt that Indrani is a survivor and her allegations against the Chidambarams may well be a part of her strategy to save herself or reduce her sentence. Reviled as the daughter-killer, she is now a convenient stick to beat the Chidambarams with.

Also read: Once the Amit Shah of UPA govt, tables have turned for Chidambaram 

A CEO or slayer of reputations

For the first time since being jailed for allegedly murdering her daughter Sheena Bora, she looks like the woman who had a certain kind of powerful, middle-aged Mumbai man at her feet, first as a corporate head hunter who turned more heads than she hired, then as the socialite wife of one of the most influential media executives in the country, and finally as the CEO of a wannabe media behemoth with interests in news and entertainment. Meet Indrani Mukerjea – trophy wife, powerful CEO and slayer of reputations.

This was the woman who so enraptured then-Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea “one rather wet evening” at The President’s The Library Bar that although she had arrived with the late advertising legend Alyque Padamsee, she left with the man who was then Rupert Murdoch’s blue-eyed boy. As Suhel Seth, then the darling of the Delhi-Mumbai-London set and now tainted by multiple MeToo allegations, wrote in a column in The Telegraph in 2015, “The evening went off swimmingly well: in fact, so smitten was Peter by her that he left his girlfriend Sapna behind for Sumantra (Dutta, a Star executive) and me to drop and went off with Indrani”.

That was written a day after Indrani was arrested on the suspicion of murdering her daughter Sheena Bora, whom she had allegedly tried to pass off as her younger sister. Once seen as a harmless enough Becky Sharp-like character by Mumbai/Delhi high society, discarding husbands as she moved up the social ladder, Indrani acquired more sinister, Medea-like qualities, destroying anyone who opposed her. Margaret Atwood described William Thackeray’s Becky as someone living on her wits, using “men as ambulatory bank accounts”. (Margaret Atwood, Curious Pursuits: Occasional Writing, p 130, 2005)

She may as well have been writing about Indrani.

Ambitious women on the make

Mrunalini Deshmukh, prominent Mumbai lawyer, told ThePrint she remembers Indrani as a “seemingly simple woman entering into marriage with a formidable man, yet caught in an ugly divorce battle”. At that time, she was married to Kolkata businessman Sanjeev Khanna (who was to surface later in her life when she allegedly murdered Sheena), and was concerned only about the custody of their daughter Vidhie, later adopted by Peter.

“She seemed head over heels in love with Peter,” recalls Deshmukh, “with the right body language, all the blushing and the flushing.” That was 2002. Deshmukh recalls meeting her later, socially, at a few Mumbai parties, in her avatar as a media mogul and says she saw a distinct change. “She would throw her weight around in a most unrefined way.”

High society in India is not particularly kind to ambitious women on the make. Whether it is power broker Niira Radia who built a seemingly invincible career playing interface between corporates and government till she was brought down by the Radia tapes. Or whether it was Sunanda Pushkar who burst onto the Delhi circuit as Shashi Tharoor’s independently wealthy love interest and part-owner of an IPL team till her mysterious death in 2014 cast a cloud of suspicion over the couple’s reputation.

The world tries hard to keep its innate misogyny aside when women are on their way up, but it surfaces the minute they are pulled down.

Also read: Indrani Mukerjea allowed to turn approver in INX Media case involving Chidambarams

Shiny on the surface

When the going was good, Indrani was a star. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal named her in their top 50 women to watch list – she was placed at No. 41. Explaining the choices, the list said: “Out of the ashes of the economic meltdown, some new stars have emerged – most notably Sheila Bair, No. 1 on this year’s Women to Watch list, who has been thrust into the spotlight in her bank-rescue role as a hard-charging regulator at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. And Barbara Desoer, No. 3 on this year’s list, has risen to a pivotal role at Bank of America as president of mortgage, home equity and insurance services”.

On the surface, everything was shiny. Indrani and Peter raised funding from a cluster of investors for INX Media. But by 2009, the company was in a crisis, and Indrani and Peter quit their management positions.

Domestic complications

But apart from mismanagement that dogged their media venture, there were also domestic complications. Peter knew of Indrani’s marriage to Sanjeev Khanna (who suffered from a ‘damsel in distress syndrome’ according to friends quoted in India Today) and their daughter. But he apparently had no knowledge about the father of Indrani’s first and second-born – Sheena and Mikhail – a Shillong-based man calledChirag, or her subsequent marriage in Kolkata to a businessman Siddhartha Das.

In 1993, according to India Today, Indrani gave custody of Sheena and Mikhail to her mother, and started a new life with Sanjeev Khanna, a pattern she was to repeat when she remade herself to suit Peter’s based-in-Bristol-works-in-Mumbai-holidays-in-Marbella world. Peter had had his own share of relationships and two sons by marriage to Shabnam Anand, who now lives a quiet life in Dehradun. Peter’s older son, Rahul, a wannabe actor, would have a relationship with Sheena, who came to live with Peter and Indrani in Mumbai in 2006, and would seek her well after he was reportedly told that she had abandoned him to go to the US.

Indrani managed, by all accounts, to manipulate people into believing that Sheena had left for the US in 2012. But the arrest of Indrani’s driver in 2015, after a tip-off from an unidentified caller in Meerut, with a pistol on him led to the Mumbai Police digging up Sheena’s skeletal remains from a spot near Tiger Point, 90 km off Mumbai. It kicked off an investigation into the murder, which continues to date.

As former head of Mumbai Crime Branch, Meeran Chadha Borwankar, puts it: “From what I know through media reports, Indrani has turned approver in the case. But her statement, even if given before a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC, must be corroborated by independent evidence. Only then can it be relied upon by the court”.

Also read: Zee News asks if Gandhis are next after Chidambaram, Rajdeep sees it as a perception war

Different parameters for truth

In jail since 2015, Indrani has gone through many avatars – the prisoner who wants her Sanskrit-to-English translation of 700 verses of Bhagvad Gita to be published, themember of a 200-strong group that rioted in Byculla Jail after an inmate’s death, and now a convenient stick to beat the Chidambarams with.

Gautam Mukerjea, Peter’s younger brother who lives in Goa, says: “What’s playing out is there for everyone to see. My comments are of no consequence really as perhaps everyone knows what she is about and capable of.” He points out that “everyone in her family appears to be dead, except for her brother/son Mikhail”. His brother, Peter, arrested in November 2015 by the CBI, has been in in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, which has seen many high profile inmates, from Sanjay Dutt to Salman Khan. His appeal for bail has been rejected several times.

So, what does it say about us as a society where the prime accused in a heinous murder case can be considered a reliable witness in a corruption case? Even in a country that has got used to business titans skipping continents to avoid repaying bank loans, there has to be some moral standard.

Deshmukh is quite categorical: “It is quite a disgusting situation but it says less about us as a society and more about our politicians that they will stop at nothing to achieve their ends, using, dumping and using people again. They have no ethics.”

And Indrani is a product of the same society, which has flexible parameters for what can be constituted as truth. “We’ll play this thing,” says Indrani in the 2018 Times Now interview. For how long and how far?

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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  1. Certainly yes. Any one who knows about the inhuman, well planned murder, of her own daughter, and the elaborate cover up she has made to conceal the crime, can easily make out her criminal mind set.

    This is the height of revengeful mentality of the rulers, to absolve the culprit of the said money laundering, and make her the approver, just to corner and harass a person who no involvement with that crime. The entire country know about Ms Indrani Mukherjee’s heinous crime and her manipulations.

  2. Ppl It is not pro PC or antiPC, one shd bear in mind that now a days no politician is innocent. And it appears from Sristi’s comment he/she is remembering the good great picture Mother India, in witch the honest Mother shot her own son in open public view. It was for a noble cause. Here the reality is quite different and opposite. The one who is unfaithful to the society and self is put before the court as a ‘witness’. Whether anybody’s concious agrees with? God save our great Nation.

  3. What catastrophic times. Mass murderers in power who justify that as being true Indian! I did want dictatorship for India but not this one. God help lower castes and religious minorities in this country.

  4. I rolled my eyes when I read “High society is not particularly kind to ambitious women on the make”. She was on the power list of 50 women to watch out for. True, but for entirely different reasons, I suppose.

    Maybe this is how Indian politics and business works in reality, except for a few honorable exceptions.

  5. Chidambaram is and will always be intelligent chor, he is 2000 % corrupt, no one can have the property that he and his son own without any industry by being honest, just look what the poor people of india are being deprived and cheated off by our political bosses to loot india’s vast resources

  6. A women who tried to frame her daughter as sister, murdered her for xyz reasons, I think as per current Indian political ruling system we must believe her, only then we can become real shikandis. I hope atleast few people of our country still remember the slogan “Satyameva Jayate”.

  7. The print, persons/entities like you can be hired by any elements. Tainting the witness though she from dubious background. Cheap, mean u print media.

  8. In Hiren pandya murder case, sorrabuddien and his colleagues confessed the role of amit shah, at that time people had opinion of how to believe the words of these criminals, though they have any hidden gain. Here Indrani has some gain here. PC may be corrupt so as Amit Shah.

  9. Whatever , I would say that she should be given the minimum sentence . She looks so vunerable , murder committed due to fear of being exposed or blackmail. The law needs to take a lenient view. She is not a habitual criminal.

  10. Sad state of affairs in the country where a murderer is most saught after person and he who took millions of people out of poverty is being treated like a common criminal

  11. Dear print! Your writers are trying their best to taint the witness and prove Chidambaram is innocent. Chidambaram is a tainted neta. Let courts prove his guilt or innocence. Just because Indrani is convicted in a murder case… Her credibility as a witness need not be questioned. Remember the Delhi High court already named Chidambaram “the kingpin”


  13. Not to forget Amit Shah is taking badla on Chidabaram because Shah was sent to jail while PC was HM and now it’s his turn he thinks. What a shame….since last 5 years they have not been able to get evidence and using Indrani who is a criminal murdering her own daughter. The article clearly tells what is her take in life so to get away with her case and the politician to their benefit going on her words…..the SC should not heed to such tactics and to insist on proper evidence and action as per law and not on allegation. Hope SC upholds law

  14. Every thing possible in India. Looks like Indrani is a proffisinal witness found out side the small courts in India. Cost may very. It is laughable that our courts trust a born criminal as known from her back ground and past activities.God bless all of us

  15. Many of us have already passed judgement on whether PC is corrupt or no depending upon which party we support. Forget the political affiliation we may have for a moment. This lady is in jail since 2015 for murder of her own daughter by torching her with the help of the driver and her ex husband which is a third degree murder. She has a suspect background from the beginning and have multiple children through multiple people. Her life was just hanging on a thin thread and which over a period of time has become thick rope thanks to our investigating agencies. Her murder trial has not even started.. are we going to decide the fate of PC by the murderer turned approver’s statement for settling political scores. Though there might be immediate setback for PC but when the trial starts many things will be fiercely challenged and fought.

  16. We should forget or overlooked that Amit Shah was sent to jail when P Chitambramb was HM now Amit Shah is HM. From a common man’s point of view both Amit Shah and P Chitambramb are Criminals former first did crime in Gujarat then killed Judge and the latter one took bribe. Only God can punish in India might is always right.

  17. Is chidambaram corrupt or not?That is not a question of Hamletian proportion. The germane question here , is the pursuit of ‘truth’ ,’nothing but the truth’, as sacrosanct as made out by the ‘ bhakt’.The truth I believe will prevail in this case and it is here that God and religion has it’s uses , finally ‘one day’,when it’s all over, justice will prevail,ahem,Jai Shri ram ,inshallah to that.

  18. Chidambaram if found guilty, let him face punishment. Why to bring a witness whose credibility. Tomorrow any criminal can be tuned around witness approver to nail political opponent.

  19. If she is speaking the ‘truth’, her status as ‘murder accused’ should not have any bearing on the weight of her statement. The defense will naturally use that as an excuse to ‘discredit’ her testimony. But facts are facts, even if stated by an accused in a different case. In these proceedings, ‘SHE” is NOT on trial, but PC is. There is no law barring an accused from testifying. Nor is an accused a ‘liar’ ipso facto. The CBI however has a job proving that the meting did indeed take place and what was said then.

  20. Just because she is convicted for murder, we cannot say Chidambaram is a clean person and she is a liar. Each case has it’s own merits to be investigated and punished if found guilty. One doesn’t absolve the other.

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