Sunanda Pushkar, the wife of Indian union minister Shashi Tharoor, has reportedly been found dead in a hotel room in New Delhi. On Friday night, police were still investigating the cause of her death, according to several local news outlets.
The news comes as a shock to India, where Pushkar, 52, has been the focus of extensive media coverage this week over a controversy involving herself, her husband, and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar. Earlier this week, what appeared to be personal messages from Tarar to Tharoor, India’s Minister of State for Human Resource Development, were sent out from Tharoor’s Twitter account to over two million followers. Tharoor quickly announced his account had been hacked, but a public dispute between Pushkar and Tarar ensued, in which Pushkar accused Tarar of stalking her husband and being a Pakistani spy, and Tarar lashed out against the accusations.
A joint statement issued by the Pushkar and Tharoor on Jan. 16 said that couple was “distressed by the unseemly controversy” around the hacked Twitter account, as well as the way in which comments made by Pushkar were “distorted” in the press. “We wish to stress that we are happily married and intend to remain that way,” the statement read. “Sunanda has been ill and hospitalised this week and is seeking to rest. We would be grateful if the media respects our privacy.”
Social media in India erupted at the news of Pushkar’s death, speculating over the cause and chiding the press at hounding the family. The couple, who were married in Kerala in 2010, have often been in the public eye here, both for the glamorous air they lent to India’s greying political circles and for earlier brushes with controversy. In 2010, Tharoor, a former diplomat who had been in the running to become secretary general of the United Nations, stepped down from his post as minister of state in the Ministry for External Affairs due to allegations that he stood to profit from equity Pushkar was gifted in an IPL cricket franchise.