Owner’s pride now friend, help’s envy: catfight over house in Hauz Khas

A strange property dispute has been brewing behind the closed doors of L-1/10 in Hauz Khas. One which has pushed its owner, Latika Sarkar, a former head of the Law Faculty in Delhi University, to the sidelines.

Sarkar's close associate Nirmal Dhaundiyal, an IG with the Bihar Police currently posted in Patna, is holding fort on the ground floor of the house.

At the rear, past an unlit corridor and up a rickety staircase is a room, in which 58-year-old Rangita Bharati has been camping since Sunday evening.

Sarkar's husband, noted journalist Chanchal Sarkar, died on October 10, 2007.

On Tuesday, when Newsline visited the house, Sarkar was not at home. She was disturbed by the recent proceedings and has temporarily shifted to a friend's place.

Meanwhile, at the house Bharati claims to be a tenant of the Sarkars. "I have been living here since 1973 and pay Rs 50 for the room. I have never worked as their servant. I run a garment unit in Shahpur Jat to make a living," she told Newsline.

Dhaundiyal, who said he was "almost like a son" to Latika Sarkar, claimed Bharati was a servant and had forcibly entered the house on Sunday. Dhaundiyal's son, Ashwini Dhaundiyal, who works with NDTV, has been living in the Sarkar household for the last 6 years.

Bharati also claimed that she was close to the Sarkars and had been promised financial assistance in buying a house. Since 2003, however, Bharati and Sarkar have been involved in litigation over the ownership of the room under her. "I was very close to Latikaji and she used have fish and curry from our house and would sit with me for hours. Chanchalda had even promised to help me buy a house at the cost of Rs 18 lakh," she said.

Bharati said that in July 2007, when she was away to Bengal to attend her mother's funeral, some men forcibly evicted her two sons and threw out all her belongings on Dhaundiyal's orders. "I don't want the property. All I want is that I should be compensated for the loss of my property," she said.

Dhaundiyal, who rushed from Patna on Monday, said Bharati is mentally harassing Latika Sarkar. He, however, claimed that he himself is not interested in the property.

"I am like a son to Latika Sarkar. She has no one to look after her. My son has been living here for six years, and after Chanchalda's death, my wife has also shifted here to take care of Monu Masi (Sarkar)," he said. As a last word, however, he said, "Who else will the property go to?"

Dhaundiyal claims to have known Sarkar for the last 35 years — he befriended her through her friend Uma Rao, his teacher at Allahabad University.

The police, meanwhile, remain impassive as they have not yet received any formal complaint. "We can't evict someone merely on the basis of a phone call. We will have to verify it further before taking any action," a senior police officer said.

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