Miss India 1997 Nafisa Joseph allegedly committed suicide at her home in Versova, suburban Mumbai, late on Thursday. She was 25.
Anuradha Sawhney, chief functionary, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals in India, remembers Nafisa:
I met her when I joined PETA two days before Nafisa did her first shoot for us. She was one of the first persons to come forward to get the message of [being] compassionate citizens [in relation animals too] to schoolchildren. As a result of her efforts thousands of schoolchildren have learnt these lessons.
I have personally answered three of her calls for elephants. She lived in Versova and recently there was an elephant there and she called me. We both shouted at the mahout but he ran away [In cities elephants are exposed to cruelties like shortage of water, food and find it difficult to walk on hot tarmac].
I think she just had this kind of compassion in her... wanted to know more about animals. She joined a correspondence course on how to become vet's assistant. Nafisa was interested in learning about the laws that protect animals so she could be aware. I emailed the laws to her.
A year back when she was retuning from work at 12.30 or 1, she called because she had found a dog that had been run over. It was late at night and the dog died but she sat with the dog throughout. She would shout at any one who was abusing animals. She was always willing to stand up for animals. And she told us that if we ever needed her, to call us. She was willing to use her celebrity status to help.
She was very warm, very compassionate. She was one of those celebrities that made time in her life to help animals. At PETA we thought of her as a real angel.