Neelam Katara has overcome darkness and despair in her battle for justice — with help from ‘someone watching over me’
There has never been a time in the past four years when the thought of giving up crossed my mind, though there have been moments when I began to lose hope. It is terrible for any mother to lose a child, but to lose a young son, still at the beginning of his life, is doubly traumatic.
After the death of my husband in 2005 I lost my sense of direction. Then, a little after this, the BJP got rid of DP Yadav [the father of Vikas Yadav, one of the main accused in the Nitish Katara murder case]. I knew then there’s someone watching over me. I saw it as a sign from Nitish that I should not give up on him.
Nitish was a fair person, and he was always on the side of the underdog. I owe it to the memory of my son to keep my end up in this fight. I don’t think I could have lived with myself had I not fought this battle — my son’s battle. Whatever happens now, I know I’ve tried my best.
I don’t blame Bharti
I’ll always remember the day I saw DP Yadav on television saying that he had been framed and that the Nitish Katara issue was a political conspiracy against him. The same day I got a call asking me to go to the mortuary. I had a sense of disbelief — I did not know how to react.
I had to identify the body through the watch that Bharti Yadav [Vikas’s sister] had given him. The police kept asking me if I recognised my son — the charred remains of my son.
I felt weak in my knees when I saw his body. I prayed then, and I pray now, that no mother should ever have to face a situation like that. In that moment of darkness, I decided to fight back and get justice.
Bharti has disappointed me, she has failed me. But I’m glad she accepted that she was the one who sent the letters and cards to Nitish. I know there must be a lot of pressure on her and that she had no choice, and she succumbed to it. I don’t blame her, though.
My son, my beacon
My friends and relatives tried to convince me to settle abroad, but I had resolved to stay. I have had my dark moments, and I may have to live through darker moments yet, but I have to keep going. I have to follow this ray of light, this beacon of hope, that is my son.
Strangers asked me why was I taking such a risk when my younger son Nitin was still alive. What if they did something to him? With my husband gone, who would protect him?
In such bleak and dangerous times, the memory of my murdered son, and my faith in God, keeps me going. Just because Nitish was dead, I could not say that fighting his cause is useless. Any mother would do the same.
The 18 months that followed Nitish’s death were the bleakest of my life. I was a joint secretary’s wife, but I didn’t know how to draft an official letter. And I was pushed into the maze that is the Indian judicial system.
My husband was suffering from motor-neuron disease. I was prescribed sedatives just so I could sleep. I did not take them — I feared something bad would happen if I slept.
When kids refuse to listen
It did not help that everyone was advising me about what I should have done. People would ask why I had not warned Nitish. I was made to feel so guilty. The one thing that kept me going, that kept me balanced, was yoga. Pranayam gave me mental peace. Finally I could sleep again.
We are an easygoing family, one where we all know each others friends. When Nitish started seeing Bharti, he came and told me. I had my reservations: Bharti’s cousin had been implicated in a murder case and, anyway, her family is very different from ours. But he refused to listen.
It was amusing how he tried to make me like her, describing all her good qualities and relating what he thought were endearing aspects of their relationship, like she was fond of his baby pictures because she had none of her own.
I used to get irritated with Nitish when — on Valentine’s Day or any similar occasion — huge bouquets would arrive at our doorstep. I refused to speak to him when he accepted an expensive watch from Bharti.
The night without end
The night Nitish disappeared, Bharti called, pleading me to go to the police, adding that maybe her brothers — Vikas and Vishal — had taken Nitish to Punjab.
I went to the police. There was no trace of Nitish — and there never would be. Never.
Neelam Katara spoke to Ginnie Mahajan in New Delhi