Murdered Hindi poetess Madhumita Shukla spoke to former Uttar Pradesh minister Amar Mani Tripathi as many as 35 times on cellular and fixed line telephones on the last three days of her life, according to police sources in Lucknow.
The crime branch of the criminal investigation department of the state police has printouts of the details of the phone calls, the sources said. While Tripathi is said to have called Shukla 20 times, the poetess called the minister 12 times, the sources said, adding that three other calls were made on land lines.
The police have reportedly also recovered a medical prescription on which the poetess had mentioned her name as Mrs Tripathi, the sources claimed.
The investigating agency has questioned the doctors who had conducted a post-mortem examination of Shukla's corpse, and also the station house officer, Mahanagar, who had earlier investigated the case.
But questions are being raised about the fairness of the investigation after the recent transfer of several senior police officers.
On May 17, Chief Minister Mayawati announced the removal of Senior Superintendent of Police (Lucknow) Anil Kumar Agarwal, who was moved to the Provincial Armed Constabulary in Kanpur.
Additional Director General of Police (CB-CID) R C Sharma and Additional Superintendent of Police (Crime) Rajesh Pandey were also given marching orders over the last two days.
Significantly, both Vijay Kumar, who replaced Agarwal as Lucknow's SSP, and Umesh Chandra Srivastava, who replaced Pandey, had served in Gorakhpur, Tripathi's hometown.
Meanwhile, on the basis of a statement given by a priest that he had solemnized Madhumita's marriage with Anuj Mishra, a student of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, the police raided Mishra's residence.
Mishra, however, has reportedly gone to Singapore to attend a summer camp. Rani Mishra, his mother, denied his involvement with the poetess. "He would never do this," she told television news channels. "Many of the students [at IIT] are women. He does not misbehave with them. His professors will vouch for him. We are being implicated in this because we are poor and all because her diary had the initials AM."
The police are holding a key witness Deshraj, Shukla's 12-year-old domestic help, incommunicado. They reportedly refused to allow even Deshraj's parents to meet him. The boy's location is said to be changed frequently to keep him out of the media's reach and no police officer is ready to comment on his whereabouts.
Deshraj had told the police that two persons, including one Satya Prakash, had visited Shukla's house on May 9, the day she was murdered. He also said the poetess frequently visited Tripathi's residence and even spent nights there.