Mumbai Crime: After serving 20 years for murdering his wife, former MLA now helps married couples

Updated: Jul 21, 2019, 13:06 IST | Faizan Khan

Former Delhi-based MLA Sushil Sharma, who is out of prison after serving over 20 years in Tihar Jail for murdering his wife, has made it his life's mission to help married couples

Mumbai Crime: After serving 20 years for murdering his wife, former MLA now helps married couples
Sushil Sharma was a former MLA and Youth Congress president. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

After spending over two decades in Delhi's Tihar Jail for the murder and brutal disposal of his wife Naina Sahni's body over her alleged extra-marital affair, former Congress youth leader and MLA Sushil Sharma has finally found his raison d'etre—helping other married couples, who are going through a rough patch. The crime of passion, which took place on July 2, 1995, was infamously known as the "Tandoor Murder Case," because the victim's body was burnt inside a tandoor.

Since his release in December last year, Sharma has been slowly working at piecing his life together, trying to make amends for what he describes as an impulsive mistake. Sharma, who visited the city last week for a "mannat" he had made at Haji Ali Dargah and to meet a leading producer interested in making a film on his life, told mid-day that he has already counselled dozens of couples and is also planning to conduct classes for those who can't control their rage. He first began counselling five years ago, while still behind bars. "Ninety per cent of the prisoners inside Indian jails are not hard-core criminals; they just need counselling," he said.

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Sharma praying at Haji Ali Dargah last week
Sharma praying at Haji Ali Dargah last week

Speaking with mid-day, Sharma said, "My life changed in the fraction of a second. I realised that whatever I did was wrong, and that I could have handled the situation better. I have no words to explain how the crime took place. It happened in a fit of a rage. After completing my sentencing, I have only one thing to say: jail is a bad place, but it makes you more human. Had I not committed this crime, I would have been a Union minister today, but I have learnt from my mistake." Sharma said that while in prison, he had suicidal thoughts on several occasions. "I didn't want to live and even decided to commit suicide. But a co-prisoner, jailed in a dowry case, counselled me and convinced me to recite the Gayatri Mantra."

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Sharma said that he "followed his suggestion" and decided to help other prisoners who needed counselling. "The situation is horrible inside Indian prison, and the way prisoners are treated, they actually lose all hope. I took up the initiative of helping inmates because it helped me; today, because of that Tihar jail has around 60 counsellors, who interact with prisoners."

Sharma killed wife Naina Sahni on July 2, 1995 following an argument over her alleged extra-marital affair; he later tried burning her body inside a tandoor in his hotel. Imaging/Uday Mohite
Sharma killed wife Naina Sahni on July 2, 1995 following an argument over her alleged extra-marital affair; he later tried burning her body inside a tandoor in his hotel. Imaging/Uday Mohite

After he was released, Sharma decided to extend help to couples, who were experiencing a rough period in their relationship. "I can't tell you how much I loved my wife; she loved me too. But, we didn't talk to each other about our problems, and began drifting apart." Recalling the incident, Sharma, who suddenly gets emotional, said, "That day, when I came home around 8 pm, Naina was speaking on the phone. The moment she saw me, she hung up. When I enquired, she said she was speaking to her mother. I already suspected that she was having an extra-marital affair with her ex-boyfriend Matloob Karim. When she went inside to get me a glass of water, I redialled and Matloob picked up the call. I panicked and confronted her. After an argument, I went outside, when suddenly I heard the sound of a gun-shot from my home. I rushed back, and saw her firing on the wall and with a suicide note on the table. I took the gun from her hand, and tore the suicide note." In the ensuing struggle, she got shot. Sharma panicked and decided to burn her body inside the tandoor in his hotel. "I realised later that I should have called the police. But, I took her to a doctor friend, who declared her dead. Scared, I decided to perform her last rites inside the tandoor in my hotel, which was just next to my residence."

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He, however, dismisses claims that he had chopped her body into pieces. "They were all media-driven theories. If you read the Supreme Court's order, there was no weapon found. I put her inside the tandoor, as her suicide note said that she wanted me to perform her last rites." Sharma was traced and arrested after a massive fire was reported in the hotel. "The case was misreported in the media, because of my political image. I used to be close to Rajiv Gandhi, and was doing very well as the Youth Congress president. I regret everything I did."

Today, Sharma is trying to share his experiences with others, so that they don't suffer a similar fate. A 24-year-old married woman, who identified herself only as Neha, is among the many couples, who Sharma has helped. "I was a child when the Tandoor murder took place, so I was not aware of the incident," she said, adding, "A common friend suggested that I reach out to Sharma. When I learnt about his past, I was scared to meet him, but after speaking with him, I realised that he has completely changed as a person. His suggestions and counselling helped me and my husband. We are happier than before."

Delhi-based Vaibhav Kumar, 42, who is in the construction business, said that he had been suffering from negative thoughts and decided to meet Sharma on the suggestion of a friend. "His advice helped me in my personal and professional life. Now, I have stopped telling lies to my customers and even try and listen to my wife. I always discuss my issues with her, and she helps me resolve it."

Sharma says that he "keeps thinking about what exactly went wrong in his marriage", and how he and his wife could have dealt with the situation differently. "But we failed, and it cost both of us. I don't want others to experience this."

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