| Ashok Pandey (second from left), who claims to be the father of Rimjhim and Anjali with the girls and his sister-in-law Anita at Shanti Niketan School on Tuesday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
A man turned up on Tuesday claiming to be the father of Rimjhim and Anjali at the school where their mother had abandoned them seven years ago.
One Shikha Pandey had got the sisters admitted to Shanti Niketan School at Jagat Narayan Road on October 12, 2006, before disappearing. She resurfaced in 2008 to collect Rs 2 lakh that Amitabh Bachchan had given the girls before abandoning them again. Their guardian, at present, is school principal Avineshwar Prasad Singh, who had accompanied them to chief minister Nitish Kumar’s janata durbar on Monday, seeking help.
Around 11.30am on Tuesday, Ashok Pandey, a resident of Kaveri village in Muzaffarpur district, arrived at the school with his brother, Chandan Kumar Pandey, and sister-in-law, Anita Devi, claiming that he was the father of Rimjhim, 12, and Anjali, 11. Principal Singh was not in town but his son Abhishek told Ashok and his relatives: “As my father is not here, I shall not allow you to take them. You can only meet Rimjhim and Anjali.”
As soon as the girls arrived Ashok hugged them and asked if they recognised him. Both the girls said they did not.
“You were very small when your mother took you away. But now, I have come to take you back,” said Ashok.
Anjali said: “Where were you for so many years? Why did you not come earlier? We can’t recognise any of you. We shall not go with you.” Then, they went to class.
Ashok narrated his side of the story. “I used to work at a factory in Calcutta. I had no information about my daughters. I learnt about them only when I read about their visit to Nitish’s janata durbar in today’s (Tuesday’s) newspaper.”
He and Shikha got married in 1998. “Her real name is not Shikha but Namita Pandey. Our relationship started to sour in 2005, and in 2006, she ran away with my daughters.” They also had another daughter besides Rimjhim and Anjali but she died. Ashok’s claim that he did not know about his daughters’ whereabouts proved to be false when the cutting of a newspaper report of Amitabh Bachchan’s gift to them was found among his papers. Anita explained: “He was not financially secure then.”
This correspondent called up district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar and informed him about the development. Within 20 minutes, Women’s Helpline project manager Pramila Kumari reached the school. She, too, was not convinced of Ashok’s claim. He had no documents to substantiate it either.
Pramila said: “We have taken an undertaking from him (Ashok). We have also asked Muzaffarpur Women’s Helpline to give me details of the family. Till then, they would not be allowed to meet the girls. We shall conduct a DNA test, if necessary.”