A 'suspect' husband's worst-kept secret

Amarchand (centre), Bhanwari ’s husband, who was allegedly aware of her kidnap.Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us,” the famous saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin, seems to aptly describe over-ambitious Bhanwari Devi, who from being a simple Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM) made her way to the hearts of powerful politicians in western Rajasthan. Bhanwari Devi went missing on a Sunday and has been elusive for more than 116 days. The state government handed over the investigation to CBI after the names of cabinet rank minister Mahipal Maderna and Luni MLA Malkhan Singh came under the scanner. However, the plot thickened with time as the CBI is suspecting even her husband, Amarchand, to be a part of the conspiracy.

Bhanwari Devi, 36, a Dalit and small time actor in local Rajasthani music albums, never looked back ever since her entry into the high Congress political circles in Jodhpur. She used her talent and beauty to achieve her goal to get rich and that too very fast.

Bhanwari was born in poverty in a village in Kishangarh block of Ajmer district and her parents eked out a living as daily wage labourers. She studied in a government school up to Class VIII and married Amarchand of Barundra village in Jodhpur at the tender age of 16. It was at the behest of her father, who was employed in the state medical and health department, that she studied midwifery and got the job of an ANM in 1999. 

According to sources, Bhanwari got in touch with politicians in connection with her transfers and postings and she was quick to realise the power of sex appeal among the politicians and bureaucrats. She not only got choice postings but also  arranged it for others for a price.

Within a short time, she amassed wealth beyond the meagre means of an ANM and led a lavish life, maintaining several houses and cars. CBI says she used to buy gold ornaments worth lakhs of rupees every year. Her husband was just a driver and was branded as a drunkard. The couple had a son and two daughters and the youngest daughter, according to Bhanwari, was fathered by Congress MLA Malkhan Singh.  Missing nurse Bhanwari Devi.

Greed takes over

According to sources, she became over ambitious with time. Last Assembly elections, she had demanded a ticket to contest from Bhopalgarh seat. However, she was not successful. Sources say Bhanwari was disenchanted with the Congress leaders, who used her, and was planning to shift her political loyalty to BJP. She started blackmailing the Congress politicians by secretly capturing on CDs their close relations with her. However, she never made the CDs public. She reportedly demanded a huge sum from minister Mahipal Maderna in exchange for the CD showing the two of them, but the minister was unwilling to buy her claim.

Sources said the ANM came in contact with Maderna (59) in 2005  through his friend and Congressman Malkhan Singh Bishnoi, MLA from Luni. Malkhan Singh, who had shared illicit relations with Bhanwari for over a decade, was also at the receiving end of late. She had threatened Malkhan Singh also of disclosing his illicit child (Bhanwari’s younger daughter) at a Bishnoi Mela or prepare to undergo a paternity test. Thus, she had opened too many fronts, more than she could handle. 

Like a shrewd operator, she leaked a part of the CD to a local TV news channel and a newspaper, which carried the photographs from the CD without directly mentioning the name of the minister but gave enough clues that the ‘ minister’ in question was Mahipal Maderna. This happened in August 24. Mahipal Maderna immediately called his confidante Sahiram Bishnoi, who is still absconding and carries a reward of Rs 5 lakh, to settle the issue with Bhanwari. Sahiram roped in Sohanlal Bishnoi, a PHED contractor and a friend of Bhanwari . In the first week of August, Sahiram, Sohanlal and Shahabuddin, a criminal, at a series of meetings at the Circuit House in Jodhpur hatched a plot to get hold of the CD at any cost. They introduced Shahabuddin as Raju Bhaiya, a rich friend of Maderna from Mumbai, as Bhanwari had reservations about Sohanlal. 

They agreed to settle the matter for Rs 50 lakh, according to CBI. They even paid Rs 2.5 lakh as advance in August and promised to pay the remaining amount in the first week of September.

Plot thickens

Until then, everything went in favour of Bhanwari. However, she failed to read the sub-plot. They had a different plan.

Sohanlal, as per a plan, got into another deal with Bhanwari. He purchased her Maruti Swift car for Rs 4.5 lakh and paid an advance of Rs 50,000. On the fateful day on September 1, she was allegedly lured by Sohanlal Bishnoi to Bilara to make payment for the car. That was also subject to the verification of the ‘tell-all’ CD, onboard the Bolero vehicle of Shahabuddin, which had a CD video player.

From here, they kept roaming around Bilara with her and it was resisted by Bhanwari. The charge sheet mentions that it appears that following her resistance, Sohanlal and Shahabuddin strangulated her in the car with the help of Balia. All this happened on the directions of Sahi Ram, who asked them to proceed towards Nevra Road, where they handed her over to some unidentified persons in a Scorpio.

According to the CBI, what happened to Bhanwari after that could be corroborated by Sahiram, who was arrested only on Friday. CBI believes Bhanwari is dead. According to unconfirmed reports, Bhanwari’s husband Amarchand was also kept in the loop of her abduction for 10 days for a price of Rs 10 lakh. Perhaps, not disclosing this to his wife cost him dearly.


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