The gory tale of Nithari unravels
- By Maxwell Pereira
Monday, January 22, 2007

This Sunday, lunch for me was in the sun with a group of retired officers. Expectedly, the killings of poor children in Nithari in Delhi's neighbourhood exercised everyone's mind. Accusing fingers were levelled, administrations charged, services blamed, designations and characters ripped to shreds. Everyone expressed shame, shock and indignation.

Bureaucratic grapevine had more information than had hitherto appeared in print or visual media. Waxing eloquent, the best informed in the matter, held fort: Nithari would never have been exposed, he said, but for the dogged determination of a father allegedly living off the income from flesh trade of his daughter; to investigate and pursue the case of her sudden disappearance that had put an end to the handsome flow of money that helped keep home fires burn.

He was aware just where she had been to before she disappeared - and informed the police of the details. But of course, he could not tell them she had gone to the mansion at D-5 Setor-31 for a suspected sexual rendezvous. He merely informed the cops that she did not accompany him to his work place that day like she usually did, but was to follow later and meet him outside the very house that has now gained notoriety. He even told the police that he suspected the house occupants for her disappearance.

The girl had disappeared in May last year. The police ignored the father's report. They were of course privy to the happenings at this house. There had been complaints earlier of a prostitution racket. The occupants were even summoned to the police station and questioned. But mighty politicians and police officers were regulars at this place. So how could local law enforcement officers interfere! They wouldn't dare. The police merely told the father that she must have found greener pastures for her beat and may soon turn up.

So deep-rooted was police involvement in the sleaze and debauchery at D-5, the narrator went on, that they failed to link up the endless series of other disappearances earlier reported and currently being reported from the area. How could they?

In most missing reports they had shooed away the complainants, initially reassuring them the missing could still be around and may return soon, then asking the complainants to look for the missing themselves, and later even feeding them stories about their wards having eloped or run away for prostitution. Most missing reports did not see the light of day in police records, and where they did were not paid the attention due.

I remembered something connected. Speaking at a panel discussion organised by One-World South Asia at the India International Centre in September, Bhuvan Ribhu, an activist from NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, had lamented that enforcement agencies are unable to stop millions of children from disappearing in India. He had even cited the Noida village case for unaccounted missing children over a period of time. Then amid the furore and media hype during the Anant Gupta kidnapping case in Noida that followed, a news agency also exposed the 38 others reported missing in the area. But others failed to pick this up.

I dragged myself back to the present. The aggrieved father wouldn't give up - everyone listened attentively. He kept naming Moninder Singh Pandher and Surender Koli as responsible for his daughter's disappearance. And then he approached the courts. NOIDA Sector 20 police finally relented and registered a case only in October after the local court's order. Moninder, however, went to the Uttar Pradesh High Court in Allahabad seeking quashing of the FIR. The high court, seized of the matter, declined his request; and instead directed that a deputy superintendent of police should investigate the case. Even so, the duo was summoned for questioning only in early December but allowed to return home without much ado - allegedly due to gross negligence, connivance and active collusion.

The parent pressed on - kept up the pressure. He had told the police his daughter was in possession of her mobile phone the day she disappeared. He urged them to put the telephone under surveillance. The telephone company traced the IEME number of the cell phone to Moninder's house and informed the police. It took four more days to link the instrument to the SIM card being used on it. The SIM card led to Surendra's address - again the same D-5. But the cops did not bring him in till Dec 28. His interrogation this time though, especially in the face of the cell phone surveillance reports, made him spill the beans, and the skeletons to roll out of the drain - Dec 29 onwards...

Our worthy narrator concluded: The details have all been confirmed in Surendra's narco-analysis test. Allegedly the girl was a regular at the house, charging Rs.3,000 on each occasion. Surendra, who had the glad eye for the boss's spoils, called her this time when the boss was away but not really aware of the terms of engagement. When she demanded her usual fare, he was taken aback... telling her he had not more than Rs.500.

On the pretext of making her coffee, he is supposed to have delayed her exit, even as a diabolical plan was forming in his mind to finish her off, as he was accustomed to do with the other minors lured to the house earlier. The rest is history....

(Maxwell Pereira is a former joint commissioner of Delhi Police. He can be reached at mfjpkamath@gmail.com)

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