Software Engineer Tragic Death in India
A “wedding bomb” that murdered a newly-wed software engineer and left his bride severely wounded has destroyed the tranquility of a small town in India.
Approximately a month after the event, law enforcement has made no advancement. Soutik Biswas visits the eastern state of Orissa to piece together the story of a murder that has devastated India.
On a sunny afternoon on 23 February, five days after their wedding, Soumya Sekhar Sahu, a 26-year-old software engineer, and his 22-year-old spouse Reema, were pottering around in the kitchen at his recently-built family home in Patnagarh, a lethargic, nondescript town in Orissa.
They were planning to roast eggplant and make some lentil soup for lunch when Soumya heard the rattle of the latch of their metal fence. A delivery man paused outside, carrying a package addressed to him.
A fraying tag on the package suggested it had been delivered by SK Sharma from Raipur, some 230km (142 miles) away.
Reema recalls her husband opening the package in the kitchen, and noticing a bundle wrapped in green paper with a white cord running out of it, while his 85-year-old grand-aunt Jemamani Sahu moved up from behind to see what the package consisted of.
The Surprise Gift
“This looks like a wedding present,” Soumya Sekhar told his wife. “The only thing that I don’t recognize is the sender. I don’t know anybody in Raipur.”
As he yanked the string, there was a burst of light and a massive explosion shook the kitchen. The three were knocked off their feet, and crashed on the tiled floor, bleeding profusely.
The outburst had shredded the plaster off the ceiling, the water purifier was ripped apart, the kitchen window went soaring into a nearby field, and the green painted walls were suddenly cracked.
The three squirmed in agony as the floor was splattered with blood. Jeemamani Sahu’s body was on fire. “Save me. I think I am dying,” Soumya Sekhar mumbled before losing consciousness.
That was the last time Reema heard her husband talk.
The burns stung her face and arms. With smoke filling her lungs, she attempted to inhale. Her eardrum had ruptured, so she hardly understood the voices of the panicky neighbors running in to inquire whether the cooking gas cylinder had set off. Her eyesight was fuzzy as the debris had clogged her eyes.
Still, Reema managed to drag herself to the bedroom and pick up the phone to call her mother-in-law, a director in a local college. Nevertheless, she fainted before she could dial the call.
Video footage from their home minutes after the bomb shows distraught neighbors carrying away the three wounded residents in blankets to an awaiting ambulance. The prominent software engineer, Soumya Sekhar, and Jemamani Sahu, who both received 90% burns, passed away as they were being transported to an emergency room. Reema is healing slowly in a crowded room in the burns ward in a government hospital.
More than a month after the gruesome crime, no one seems to have the slightest notion who killed this upcoming, brilliant software engineer, characterized as a “gentle and God fearing young man who admired a guru” by relatives and acquaintances.
“We are modest individuals with simple lives. I have no rivals. My daughter has no enemies. My son-in-law had no enemies. I don’t suspect anyone, and I don’t know who could have carried this out,” Sudam Charan Sahu, Reema’s father, told me.