Remember the gruesome video of a man stabbing another in New Delhi, which went around on social media recently? This is the story behind that clip.
In a residential colony in west Delhi, a man brutally stabbed three members of a neighbouring family in full public view on Wednesday evening (January 16).
Veerpal (41), wife Sunita (35) and the couple's 18-year-old son Aakash have succumbed to the injuries. The couple is survived by three children; one of them — 20-year-old Khushbu — got married six months ago while the other two are still minors.
The killer, a father of two, has been arrested by the police.
Neighbours say they found out his name, Mohammad Azad, only through the media. They do not know the name of Azad's wife either. "We had nothing to do with them. We don't even know what they did for a living," said a resident, requesting not to be named.
They recall him as a troublesome man, who constantly fought with his wife and harassed the women and children of the colony.
"He would stand outside his house in his underwear and stare and ogle at the women. He would sprinkle chilies on the steps so other children cannot even sit," the resident said.
This narrow, congested colony in the urbanised village that is Khayala area, with houses so close that families keep crossing into each other's space, is inhabited by working class people. Most of them are employed in industries nearby.
Veerpal worked as a labourer in a cloth factory, making just about enough to pay the modest monthly rent of around Rs 5,000. "The family was so poor that they had to pull out Saahil — the couple's surviving 11-year-old son — from school," said a resident.
In contrast, Azad is perhaps the richest in the colony who owns all the three floors of his building. Neighbours say Azad owns one more house in the area. They say while Azad's wife and children lived in Khayala, he spent most of his years in Saudi Arabia and Mumbai, before moving into this colony about two years ago.
They also recall that Azad often boasted to residents about being from a superior caste.
Eyewitnesses Recall The Savagery
Veerpal lived on the third floor of the building right opposite to Azad's. Azad's immediate neighbour Sonia (she only uses her first name) is a key eyewitness to the gory incident.
She recalls, "barely half an hour before she was killed, Sunita came to me asking for Rs 500, promising she would return it soon. Sunita often borrowed money from me but she always returned it on time. I gave her the note and she went to the market to buy vegetables. When she returned, she looked furious. She kept the vegetable bag outside and barged into her house, shouting and telling Aakash to give her the mobile number so she could dial 100 and call the police. Azad had said something to her while she was still entering the colony."
Azad had entered his house and locked the door from inside when an enraged Aakash rushed down the stairs and kicked at Azad's door. Aakash was loudly demanding why Azad abused his mother, saying he needed a faisla [decision] to the recurring fights. Moments later, Azad emerged with a meat chopper and stabbed Aakash. "A chunk of his flesh fell down," says Sonia.
Sunita and Veerpal ran downstairs, shouting and telling Aakash to leave the spot. Aakash managed to reach the colony's exit but Azad dragged Sunita and Veerpal out in the open and manically went on a stabbing spree. "Their intestines came out. It's even visible in the video," says Sonia.
Azad fled the scene immediately. "Within minutes, his wife, along with her two children, came down and locked her house, telling us she is going to the police station to lodge a complaint against her husband," a resident said.
"But she instead went to a relative's house. Around 10 pm she phoned one of us to inquire if police had come. We lied and said no. But we passed on the number [from which she made the call] to the police. That's how they caught her," a resident said.
When Swarajya visited the colony on Saturday, Azad's house was locked and his wife and children were in police custody. The two minor children of Veerpal also were in police custody while their flat was swarmed with neighbours and relatives.
Neighbours say that some boys helped Aakash get onto a rehri (cart) and reach the hospital but Sunita and Veerpal kept writhing in pain until an ambulance arrived some 40 minutes later. "The sight was so horrible that we could hardly muster courage to go near them. One of the women offered Veerpal some water. Sunita died on the spot," said a resident.
"The police station is hardly hundred metres away but it took the cops two hours to reach here," complained Sonu, Sonia's husband.
Residents are angry at the police. They say the cops have been taunting them and accusing them of being mute spectators and letting Azad flee.
They are also angry at the media for painting them as naamardon ki colony [a colony of impotents].
"They say we were busy making videos. That's not true. None of us shot the video. It was done by some people from outside who had entered hearing the scuffle. This episode happened around 7 pm when only women were present in the colony and most of them were in the kitchen. The men had not returned home by then. What could we do," a woman, requesting anonymity, said.
Eyewitnesses say they have been participating in the probe but the police's attitude has ensured that even this would stop in future. "We were treated like criminals at the police station when we went to record our statement. They kept asking us why we did nothing. The police even thrashed us with baton for staging a protest yesterday when we were demanding justice for the family," said Sonia.
Eyewitnesses say when they went to the police station on Friday, they were horrified to see Azad. "When he saw us, he raised his three fingers in some gesture that we didn't understand. He looked monstrous. His face showed no sign of remorse," a resident said.
"He should be hanged. That man is a threat to humanity," the resident said.
Residents Demand Heavy Compensation
There is nothing to suggest — so far — that this was a communal crime but given the religious profile of the victims and the perpetrator, it has created tension in the area. Cops have been stationed at various points to maintain peace. There is one more Muslim family in the colony and residents said they are doing everything to keep them safe.
However, the blatant communalisation of some crimes over the past few years is not lost on the residents. On Saturday, several members of the Kandera community to which the victims belonged (Kandera is a Rajput caste and comes under OBC category), protested outside the Khyala police station demanding heavy compensation for the survivors. Their demands — Rs 1 crore monetary help from the government and part of Azad's property to be given to Veerpal's children — was dismissed by a police officer, who appealed to them to maintain calm.
"When victims in Haryana can be given lakhs and crores in compensation, why can't this family?" said Balram Kandera Karan, president of an outfit called Pragatisheel Karan Samaj Sewadal, in a reference to the much-publicised Junaid Khan and Rakbar Khan cases.
The officer told the protesters that the police is getting bank accounts of the minor children opened and is trying everything that is legally possible. "Nothing will come out of your sloganeering. For all the visits by VIPs in Ankit Saxena case, the family only got 5 lakh," the officer told the crowd and requested Swarajya not to name him.
Notably, it was in this same Khayala area, where 23-year-old Ankit Saxena was killed by the family of his Muslim girlfriend last year, about 2 kilometres from the site of the latest crime.
Khayala and Vishnu Garden areas together have about 2 lakh votes that are divided almost equally between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, as per a local market head who requested not to be named.
Most of the neighbours of Veerpal did not know about Ankit Saxena. But they mentioned a case earlier this month where one Parwinder Singh alias Kalu slashed the throat of a minor girl in the neighbouring house after entering her house for robbery. "Both these incidents happened within a few hundred metres from the police station. Clearly, there is no fear of the law," said a resident.
What Next For The Bereaved Family?
Meanwhile, the residents are consolidating efforts to help the shattered family. Sonu Kalra, owner of the flat rented to Veerpal's family, told Swarajya he wouldn't charge rent till the family gathers itself. "They were extremely simple and nice people. They had been living at our place for four-five years and never gave any trouble," he said.
Sushil Gupta, a businessman in the area, told Swarajya that the market has raised some money for the family and are trying to get them a free accommodation.
Ghanshyam Singh, younger brother of Sunita, who has come from his native village in Mathura to care for the children, said they want the two children to get admission in a residential school, where they can complete their education.
"All the earning members are gone. The children are left orphaned. In one lunatic move, our world has come crashing down," he said.