Aarushi was rich people’s daughter, that’s why her death received more attention: Hemraj’s wife Khumkala

The wife of the murdered domestic help says she finds it hard to make ends meet.

ByDeepak Adhikari
Aarushi was rich people’s daughter, that’s why her death received more attention: Hemraj’s wife Khumkala
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Over the last few weeks, the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case of 2008 has again made news with Avirook Sen’s new book, Aarushi, and a new Hindi film, the Meghna Gulzar-directed Talvar. But most of the discussion concerned the jailed dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, and whether they received a fair trial. Once again, very little attention was paid to Yam Prasad Banjade’s (Hemraj’s) murder, and whether his family received justice.

Khumkala Banjade is the 48-year-old wife of Hemraj Banjade. Khumkala lives with her son Prajwal, 18, and mother-in-law Krishnakala, 80, in Dharapani village of Arghakhachi district, 400 kilometres west of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. The interview published below is a condensed version of the telephonic interview conducted in Nepali by Deepak Adhikari on September 30, 2015.

  1. How has your life changed since Hemraj’s death? How do you manage a living now?

Since his murder, our friends, my maternal family and sisters have supported us financially. We don’t have a source of income and there’s no one we can turn to for help.

  1. Has anyone from any of the investigating Indian agencies approached you for inquiries into the murder?

A lot of people came to enquire about it. Immediately after the incident, people from Delhi arrived here to enquire about it. People came from Kathmandu and Butwal (the town nearest to Khumkala’s home in Dharapani village of Arghakhanchi district). I don’t remember them all, but countless people came to ask about it.

  1. What did they ask you about?

They enquired me about him. They also asked how we were doing.

  1. Has the Indian government – or an Indian non-governmental organization – ever approached you offering monetary help or compensation?

I haven’t received a single penny from anyone.

  1. How do you think justice could be done? Do you think you would get justice someday?

My husband is no longer with us. I hope there is something for our family – my son and elderly mother. My son is ill; he wants to study. Our relatives have helped us so far. I look after the two, and it’s tough. The issue of livelihood is the main concern for us.

  1. Did Hemraj tell you anything about his employers – the Talwars?

He did not say much about the family, but told me that the doctor [Rajesh Talwar] used to get angry every now and then. He had said he would be furious even in small matters.

  1. When was the last time you spoke to him?

We didn’t have phone at our home. So I had to go to the nearest phone booth to talk to him. I had spoken to him a month before the murder. He said he would send money soon. He used to send 5,000-6,000 Nepali rupees a month. He was home [in mid-January 2008] and returned to New Delhi that month. After that he didn’t send any money.

  1. How long had he been a migrant worker in India?

He had worked in India for many years. It had been ten months since he had worked at Talwars’.

  1. While the case of Aarushi Talwar, the Talwars’ daughter who was killed along with Hemraj, has been widely covered by Indian media, your husband’s case hasn’t got as much attention. How do you feel about it?

She was rich people’s daughter. They are rich people. That’s why I think she received more attention. But we are Nepali and poor people. It would have been impossible to get equal attention.  Who would want to talk about us?

  1. What do you think will do justice to Hemraj?

I am worried about supporting my family. We don’t have any source of income.  I don’t know what I am going to do next. I don’t know how I am going to spend the rest of my life. I am particularly worried about my son’s future. My health has also deteriorated; I suffer from arthritis.

  1. What have you heard the latest on the case?

The Ghaziabad court gave its verdict on the case in November 2013. At the time, journalists from Nepal and India and lawyers from India called me up. Since then, I have heard that the Talwars have appealed to the High Court. But I don’t know how the case in the High Court is proceeding.

  1. Has any India-based Nepali organisation approach you with support?

No. No one has contacted us.

  1. What do you do for a living?

We have a small plot of land. But the yield from the farmland is barely enough for two months. My maternal family supports us financially. My in-laws also help us.

  1. Do you want to say anything more?

What shall I say? It’s been eight years since the murder…

  1. What do you remember the most about Hemraj?

I remember every moment I spent with him. He is etched in my memories. What shall I tell you?

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