In 2002, when a FIR was registered in the Nitish Katara murder case, his mother Neelam Katara was confident that the perpetrators of the crime would be brought to justice.
Her confidence, she said, started waning when she saw the accused — Vikas Yadav and Vishal Yadav — get special treatment from the police in the court. Neelam would often get frustrated when the trial was adjourned without hearing. But, Neelam, a retired teacher, did not lose hope.
Her protracted struggle to get justice for son, Nitish, culminated with the Supreme Court awarding 25-year jail term to the convicts without any remission on Monday.
In 2015, the apex court upheld the conviction of Vikas, Vishal, and their associate Sukhdev Pehalwan.
“The FIR was registered without much difficulty but when I saw policemen addressing them as ‘sir’ in the court, I was really shocked. It was frustrating actually. But these incidents made me strong. They gave me strength to fight,” said Neelam.
Nitish, a 25-year-old executive, was kidnapped and burnt to death in Ghaziabad on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002. He was in a relationship with Bharti Yadav, the daughter of Uttar Pradesh politician DP Yadav. Nitish and Bharti were at their friend’s wedding when Katara was abducted by Bharti’s brother Vikas and cousin Vishal.
Neelam said during the 14-year long legal battle, she experienced several ups and downs. “Bharti was not brought to the court even after three years of the murder for her statement. In 2004, DP Yadav was inducted into the ruling party. I was apprehensive he might be given ticket to contest elections. Despite these lows, I felt motivated when people would enquire about the case. They had been following the matter closely. I am thankful that the entire nation stood by me when I was going through difficult times in my life,” she said.
Expressing satisfaction over the judgment, Neelam said it was her ‘biggest victory’ that the court upheld the 25-year punishment for her son’s killers than the 14 years usually awarded as life sentence. “Vikas won’t get remission before 25 years is my biggest victory. The court recognised that it was a case of honour killing. It was the need of the hour. The perception of a common man is that if you fight against the powerful, nothing will happen. This impression had to go,” she added.