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Tributes

From Papiya’s youngest sister and soulmate for all times.

The real connection between Bihar and my sister, Papiya, has puzzled many who knew her socially and professionally…

I believe Papiya should matter to Bihar- at least now- as Bihar did to Papiya in her short well-lived life.

Papiya, and professional, dedicated, single women like her who have the resilience and spirit to stand up for their principles and values and who struggle in not very congenial surroundings to leave their imprint and sterling contributions , must not have the State turn its back on them.
Papiya worked in and for Bihar. Papiya’s life was taken in Bihar.

Only a resurgent Bihar can undo this most grievous injustice..

I look forward to that!

Dr. TUKTUK GHOSH, Papiya’s youngest sister and soulmate for all times.

( Excerpts from , Bihar and Papiya, in “Resurrection of the State- A Saga of Bihar: Essays in Memory of Papiya Ghosh” , 2013).

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Media Coverage

PM Inquires About Papiya’s Case Probe. Calls up Bihar CM for an update on investigation; Opposition stalls assembly


FAIZAN AHMAD,
12 DECEMBER 2006, TIMES NEWS NETWORK, PATNA

BA full one week has elapsed since the killing of Patna University’s Prof Papiya Ghosh but the City Police are yet to report any breakthrough. A worried PM, Manmohan Singh, however, called up Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on Monday to inquire about the “shocking” crime.

Noted historian Prof Ghosh was stabbed to death along with her elderly maid in her house in the posh Pataliputra Colony here on Sunday night. State’s opposition parties as well as academicians and scholars from different parts of the country and abroad have launched a campaign of sorts, demanding arrest of the killers.

A Memorandum signed by University Teachers and Research Fellows of Delhi University, JNU, Nehru Museum Memorial Library, IGNOU, School of Oriental and African Studies, London and some other UK and US Universities was also submitted to the PM recently.

The call to Bihar CM from the Prime Minister’s Office came on Monday noon. Sources said the PM wanted to know about the progress in the investigation into the “shocking” murder of Prof Ghosh. “It is shocking for us too,” Nitish responded and told him about the various angles — property, family feud and old enmity — from which the case is being probed. “If needed, we will certainly seek Central assistance,” Nitish told the PM.

During the conversation which lasted for about three minutes, the PM also talked about the mysterious death of Papiya’s father. “Yes, he died about 50 years back due to suspected poisoning. He was a civil servant and had served as the State Home Secretary,” Nitish informed the PM. Nitish further told him that he had also spoken to Somnath Chatterjee. Papiya’s younger sister Tuktuk Ghosh is Principal Secretary to Lok Sabha Speaker.

Meanwhile, the Opposition members carrying placards trooped into the well of the State Legislative Assembly to press their Adjournment Motion. Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary adjourned the House for an hour. The House re-assembled at 12 noon only to be re-adjourned for the day as the din continued. Later, the Opposition parties decided to boycott the proceedings of the Assembly until their Adjournment Motion is accepted.

The Chief Minister, who preferred to sit in his chamber when the House proceedings were on, said the Government was prepared for a debate on the issue but the Opposition was not interested in that. Reacting to the demand for handing over the case to CBI, he said it will suit the Government as well. “But I don’t think the Patna Police are incapable to solve the case,” he said.
“It is a peculiar killing but we have put four-five very competent officials on the job,” Nitish said adding he took an update on the case from the DGP and Home Commissioner on Monday too. “The Police investigation is not to satisfy the Opposition but to detect the nature of crime, catch the criminals and prosecute them,” Nitish said.

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Media Coverage

Arrest Papiya’s Killers : AIPWA

12 DECEMBER 2006, HINDUSTAN TIMES, PATNA.

All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) activists staged a Dharna in front of the State Assembly on Tuesday demanding the arrest of killers of Prof Papiya Ghosh. They also sought an end to oppression of women.

Referring to the directionless, investigation into the case, AIPWA National Secretary, Meena Tiwari said, “Till now, police have no clue about the murderers. This expresses the Government’s inefficiency. Crime against women is on the rise and the Government is unable to catch the criminals”. Prof Bharti S Kumar, AIPWA leader and a member of Patna University Senate said, “Silence of the Government on the whole matter indicates that criminals are enjoying Government protection”.

AIPWA President, Saroj Choubey said women would never tolerate violence under any regime. Deputy leader of CPI (ML) Legislature Party, Amarnath Yadav and MLA, Nand Kumar Nanda assured that they would continue fighting within and outside the Assembly seeking justice for Prof Ghosh.

Economist, Meena Dutt, AISA leaders, Abhyuday and Mohammad Musharaff, AIPWA leaders Shashi Yadav, Anita Sinha, Prof Meera Thakur and Indu Kumari, besides others took part in the Dharna.

Meanwhile, students under the banner of Chatra RJD (CJD) on Tuesday lit candles and offered prayers at the Catholic Church on Ashok Rajpath for the peace of the soul of Prof. Ghosh.

SEEKING A CBI inquiry into the murder of Prof Ghosh, CPI (ML) Liberation General Secretary, Dipankar Bhattacharya, claimed that the Patna Police had failed to make any breakthrough in the case even after 10 days of the incident.

He regretted that there was not even a modicum of security in Patna, let alone rural areas. Lamenting that the NDA Government had so far, displayed a ‘damn care attitude’ towards Papiya’s case, he demanded that the probe be handed over to CBI.
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Media Coverage

Same Night, 50 Years Later : when Muder Revisited Historian’s Home

SANTWANA BHATTACHARYA,
14 DECEMBER 2006, INDIAN EXPRESS, NEW DELHI.

History is a word that hangs over the residence of Patna University Professor, Papiya Ghosh like an old curse.

She used to teach the subject and a book on Partition, authored by her, was slated for a January release. In all, a serene academic life that seemed to hold nothing that could have provoked her brutal murder last fortnight.

Eight stab wounds, eyes gouged-out, a burgled house.

On the surface, the sort of violent crime that chooses its victims at random, save for the usual criterion: she was a 53-year-old woman, well off and living alone.

But scattered in the debris of Papiya’s life are strange clues that point back in time. To a personal history almost as old as the subject of her book.

She was killed on the same day her father, Bihar bureaucrat Ujjal Kumar Ghosh, was killed nearly 50 years ago.

Was it just an uncanny coincidence, or is there a connection to that older, as-yet “unsolved murder”. An old enmity that still lingers? How come no one , not even those manning the police station 500 yards away from her house, heard a sound that night? And why did her dogs — the two fiercely protective Pomeranians — not bark? There was no sign of a forced entry, so was it someone she knew?

The other facts too don’t add up. If it was a simple burglary gone wrong, why the brutality-the multiple stabs, the gouging out of the eyes, other stray signs of sadism? If it was a land shark getting rid of a feisty, middle-aged academician to grab her prime property, why was the house cleaned out-down to the gas cylinder? How was all the loot carried-it could not have fitted into the small Maruti 800 which, too, was taken away from the garage?

Even the hard disk containing the last two volumes of her yet-to-be published work are missing. The questions are swirling around in the isolated bungalow No. 168 in Patna’s posh Pataliputra Colony where she lived with her elderly maid Malti Devi, who too was killed. (The maid’s two grandsons, who lived in the same house, were away that night.) Now, a week or so after that gruesome wintry night, it is being talked about as a “dead-end” case.

On January 1, 2007, when Routledge releases Papiya’s book Partition and The South Asian Diaspora _ Extending the Subcontinent’ at IIC, sister Tuktuk Ghosh wants to keep the occasion quiet. For Tuktuk, a senior West Bengal cadre IAS officer, it is a double burden: the burden of being part of the ‘system’ and being patient enough to leave it to its meandering ways.

Tuktuk, visibly shattered, recounts the facts. Matched with other versions, including that of Patna police, here’s the gist: it was on early December 3, when the morning house help came around, that Papiya and her 70-year old maid’s bodies were discovered. It was not a sight anyone would ever want to confront. From head to toe, every part of Papiya’s body had been pierced-with a kitchen knife picked from the house itself Malti Devi was not spared either-four stab wounds, the same heart-stopping brutality. The stamp of extreme hatred and vengeance was all over the dead bodies, says Bihar’s home secretary Afzal Amanullah, who is Papiya’s neighbour.

Tuktuk, who rushed from Delhi, confirmed that Papya’s belongings were missing. Washing machine, gas cylinder, Maruti 800, music system, computer, watches, camera, whatever gold and money there was in the house. Only those cupboards and heavy wood almirahs which had valuables were opened and ransacked. Others were untouched.

Though wary of rubbing the investigative agency the wrong way, Tuktuk offers tentatively, “Burglary could just have been a front¿ She always made it clear that she would never move out of that property. It was to look after my mother and the house she had built that Papiya left a job in Delhi University and shifted to Patna. She could have had a job anywhere in the world, she had earned that kind of respect from her fraternity.”

Tuktuk refuses to accept that it was a “motiveless murder”. “A super-intelligent mastermind seems to be at work, unleashing the worst form of savagery. The wounds were vicious” she almost shivers as she talks.

What could be the reason behind “the barbarity, the butchering”, adjectives spill out of Tuktuk. As she lets them go, she almost clutches back at them, quietly angry but unsure of opening out fully. “Her last moments must have been very painful”. Even the nails were plucked out. “What could be the motive, it cannot be a senseless crime” her voice trails off.

Steadying herself, Tuktuk-commonly thought of as Papiya’s twin since the time they wrote articles in Junior Statesman-shares the personal history she’s never uttered in the last 50 years: “To me, it seems quite utterly uncanny, it was the same date-the night of December 2/3. My father was administered poison by a hospital nurse at the Patna Government hospital at someone’s bidding. Then too, the mastermind was never caught.”

It was their mother who brought up them up (in all, four sisters) and built the house with its sprawling garden. An exclusive enclave meant for senior officials, the Government had given them the land after the father’s mysterious death. In fact, say officials familiar with the old case, the Patna District Magistrate was appointed their local guardian.

With Tuktuk approaching the Prime Minister and President and Papiya’s well-known academic friends from across the globe writing to the PM and CM Nitish Kumar, the Patna police is understandably under pressure. Amanullah says, “We hope to crack the case in two three days. It is a difficult witness-less case, no one is coming forward to help or cooperate. But there are certain strong leads. If the trail goes cold, we’ll call in the CBI.”

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Media Coverage

Papiya’s Crime

14 DECEMBER 2006, AMRIT SRINIVASAN, TIMES OF INDIA, NEW DELHI.

For what crime was Papiya Ghosh punished on December 3, when she was brutally killed at her residence, in an upmarket locality of Patna? Early newspaper reports hinted at her class advantage. But the extremity of the violence scripted on her body suggests a deeper rage directed against her — a woman who dared to have not only a computer and a car but also a life without any father, husband, son or a shadowy brother figure in the background.

A self-respecting scholar, Papiya Ghosh at 53, remained stubbornly single and singular, qualities disdained by Indians, particularly for their women. Rejecting our (her colleagues at Hindu College, Delhi) advice, she chose at a critical point in her early career to return to Patna and teach and work amidst the migrating (escaping?) Bihari population. And look what happened to her — the cost of rejecting the usual middle-class trajectories, which only reward upward mobility, appears to have been very heavy for this brave and generous woman.

In a disfigurement reserved only for tribal witches in the anthropological literature, Papiya was disembowelled, her eyes gouged out, her body skewered and pierced. It needed Papiya’s sister’s shuddering testimony on TV, more than a week after the event, to inform us of these brute facts. Even Manu, the ancient law-giver, who justifies prohibition on all manner of pratiloma or moving against the grain for women, including the single existence, would have squirmed at such a vindication.

Conservative lessons, on confining women, are being drawn from the atrocious facts of her death. Those responsible must, however, not be allowed to temper public outrage with fear. Manu’s diktat should be turned on its head. If, as he argues, the burden of feminine transgression falls on the collective, then in Ambedkar’s India, the justice system must work hard to protect women as citizens, not just family members. At present, the entirely retrograde though unvoiced lesson being drawn from her murder is that a woman needs a man, more than her skill and talent, to survive in India.

Not only that, she needs a home, not a house, certainly not prime real estate which she may shockingly leave as she “wills” to the good causes of the world. Before being done away with, Papiya had already demonstrated such unacceptable tendencies by gifting away some of her inheritance to the public in Bihar.

The question of who murdered Papiya — robbers, property dealers or political enemies within and outside the family — is under investigation. As details are squeezed out of a reluctant Patna administration, it is important to ensure that the exercise is fair, free and competent. Her death has an emblematic character because its underlying causes will fuel more such crimes, even after this particular case is closed.

One of her grieving students remarked on TV: “I know she would have been alive and teaching today elsewhere, if she had not come back to Bihar”. However, we would be deceiving ourselves if we blame Papiya’s end solely on the sorry state of things in Bihar.

It is India as a whole, despite its phallic growth rate, which is proving an unattractive proposition to return to. Unlike in China, not many NRIs/PIOs invest in their home country. Why? Indeed, in Incredible India, there is no myth of the return of the prodigal son, and certainly not of the daughter, from the marital home.

For the Bihari migrant labourer in Punjab, ‘gap year’ student in Delhi University’s BA programme and IAS aspirant in a JNU hostel, Papiya’s indifference to self-improvement in the accepted way would amount to class betrayal.

An apparent negligence that can never authentically be condoned, never mind the candles being lit publicly and the e-mail signature campaigns in circulation.

An authentic whistle-blower to tradition and its inherent anti-democratic intention, the single woman remains a soft target for enemies of the Constitution.

This is easy enough for all of us to accept at a broad level. But the vulnerability of Papiya Ghosh’s of the world to their own modernity is harder to accept, explain and rectify.
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Media Coverage

Justice To Papiya: Researchers Launch E-mail Campaign

JP YADAV,
15 DECEMBER 2006, INDIAN EXPRESS, NEW DELHI.

Researchers across the globe, associated with South-Asian studies, have launched an e-mail campaign over the murder of Papiya Ghosh — Professor of History at Patna University.

While expressing anguish over her brutal murder, academicians and friends of Ghosh, spread across many countries are trying to put pressure on the Nitish Kumar Government to book the culprits. It’s nearing two weeks now since the murder took place and the Police remain clueless with not a single arrest.

Shankar Dutta, Professor of English at Patna University, said that Ghosh was an active member of a broad group of academicians associated with South-Asian Studies and all of them want justice. He felt that Ghosh’s murder has undermined the confidence of the global community in Bihar. Purnendu Mukherjee, coordinator of the All India Bengali Association also confirmed the e-mail campaign and said letters to the PM and the President were also being sent.

This murder case has extended the severest jolt to all the brand building efforts for a resurgent Bihar, being undertaken by the Nitish Government. Even the PM had called Nitish expressing concern over the murder. The jolt comes particularly because the Police have failed so far to achieve any breakthrough in the case. It has not even been able to recover the Ghosh’s car and other valuables stolen after the murder.

Though the Police claim to be investigating the case, it is primarily treating the case as a murder for robbery.

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Media Coverage

Papiya Four Snapped Up

HT CORRESPONDENT
16 DECEMBER 2006, PATNA.

“As of now, robbery alone seems to be the motive behind the murder of Patna University Historian Papiya Ghosh,” Director-General of Police A.R. Sinha said.

The four arrested were Shankar Sau, 22, a part-time driver with a Don Bosco school teacher; A.K. Roy, 19, a jobless youth from Chhapra who worked in a rolling mill here before taking to petty thefts; A.K. Urao, 19, a newspaper hawker; and Manohar Kumar Thakur, who recently quit working at a rolling mill. None has a murder charge against him.

Most of the loot, including a Maruti car found in a dilapidated garage, a TV set and a computer, has been recovered from different places in Patna. None of it had been sold.

DGP Sinha said the main gate of the Historian’s house was “ajar” when the gang “sneaked in” around 9 pm. They probably knew her daily routine well to strike at that hour. The main conspirator, who “would have provided information” about Ghosh’s routine, is still at large.

The DGP, who announced a Rs.50,000 reward to the Police team, asked the media to “stop” thinking of “various angles” and trust the Police.

But Ghosh’s friends are not “convinced”. Prof. S.K. Singh, also a resident of Pataliputra Colony, said “the small gang must have been used just as a pawn by powerful people”.

Maya Shankar, a friend, said: “It is difficult to digest that Papiya was killed just for resisting a robbery.”

Saibal Dasgupta, a sociologist, said with property rates as high as they are in Pataliputra Colony, the robbery motive was “just too simplistic.”

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Tributes

From Jaya Ghosh

It is very difficult for me to think of Papiya in the past tense. She was seven years younger than me . I treated her as one of my kids in many ways. I feel blessed to have her as my sister. She was also my friend, philosopher, spiritual advisor, counselling for dealing with life’s adversities and much more. Her hearty laughter still rings in my ears….
I am borrowing a poem by Constance Parker Graham to convey my feelings…

“Some people
Have a special gift
Of giving other hearts a lift,
Roses, rainbows, a sunny smile
Whatever makes a day worthwhile.
They give warmth
And understand,
The art of lending a friendly hand
They always know
What help you need
They are very special people indeed
Who somehow always seem to guess
Just how to bring you happiness”.

Constance Parker Graham

Papiya’s loss is an irreparable one.

Our family will carry forward her legacy and honour her memory in as many ways as we possibly can.

JAYA GHOSH ( Papiya’s eldest sister)

(Excerpts from , My Very Special Sister, Papiya-Bumble, in “Toast to Papiya ”, 2008).

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Tributes

My Very Dearest Sister

“Karmayogi” is a description that would aptly describe Papiya – a believer in service, rather than a follower of religious rituals. She had a deep and abiding faith in the Divine Presence and whatever she did, it was with complete truthfulness and honesty and to the best of her ability.

She was the most caring and dutiful of sisters. Always positive, optimistic, with ready wit and sparkling intelligence, Papiya could not be put down for long. She was not afraid of voicing her opinions and would not tolerate injustice.

Through our deep grief, we will honour and cherish our brave and courageous sister for the very high values she epitomized.

I appeal to you to help securing justice for Papiya. Else it will be mockery of all that our Constitution and legal edifice stand for.

KEYA – (SISTER)
– CAIRO
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Media Coverage

Success Brings Relief, Doubts Remain

16 DECEMBER 2006, HINDUSTAN TIMES CORRESPONDENT, PATNA.

The arrest of the criminals involved in the killing of Patna University (PU) Professor Papiya Ghosh, and her elderly maid, and the recovery of articles that were looted by the killers, has brought a sigh of relief to the teaching fraternity of Patna University (PU) and Magadh University. The Teachers are all praise for the role of the Patna Police in nabbing a number of those involved in the murder but also want the Police to take the case to its logical conclusion.

Dr U K Sinha, Patna University Teachers’ Association (PUTA) President- thanked the Chancellor and the Chief Minister for mobilizing the Police and Administration in this regard. PUTA General Secretary, Dr. Randhir Kumar Singh, however, urged the Police to take the case to its logical conclusion. He also urged the University Administration to institute a Chair named after Papiya, in tribute to her brilliance as a historian.

President of the Magadh University Teachers’ Association (MUTA) Dr Avnindra Kumar Singh Thakur, said that the arrest of a number of those involved in the double murders and recovery of the looted property belonging of Papiya should not be taken to be the end of the matter. The police should unravel the conspiracy behind Papiya’s murder and find out who plotted the gruesome killing. MUTA General Secretary Dr Vibhuti Kumar added that the State Government must ensure safety of life and property to Teachers, as every such incident weakened the morale of the teaching fraternity.

Dr Nihar Nandan Prasad Singh, Head of Patna University’s History Department and former Vice Chancellor of Bihar University, was not satisfied with the latest development in the investigation of Prof Papiya Ghosh and her elderly maid. He said the police had not yet, unveiled the conspiracy behind the murders. He, however, said the Departmental Council had resolved to rename the History Seminar Hall after Papiya. A few days back, the Patna Police had taken into its possession the books and magazines that lay in Papiya’s cupboard at the History Department, he said.

Dr Daisy Narain, another senior Teacher of Patna University did not see the arrest of some suspects as a major breakthrough. She said it was too early to say anything with finality. The Police should trace the mastermind behind the murders besides booking the persons who actually executed the heinous crime, she said.

Dr Dilip Kumar Sinha, President, Bihar Bengalee Association, said, “The Police claim that Papiya was killed by burglars while committing theft in her house does not sound convincing at all. No sensible person can accept this theory. There are lots of contradictions. Like, why for all reasons did the burglars take another vehicle to her house to commit the crime and also took away the victims car? If the Police claims are true, I feel we should be proud that burglars in the state have really improved. I also wonder, why the Police took so much time to catch simple burglars.

Obviously, we will continue our agitation for the real truth to come out. We will also have to wait for the arrested persons to reveal more facts. But, I feel all educated persons in the State share a feeling that Papiya’s murder was not for all such simple reasons.”