The sight of policemen every few metres leads me to the house of Nikita Tomar, a 21-year-old woman who was killed by her former schoolmate and stalker Tausif Ahmed on 26 October. A video of Tausif shooting Nikita in the head from point-blank range had gone viral on social media.
Nikita’s father Moolchand Tomar is seated on a mattress at the entrance, flanked by her maternal grandfather (nana) and maternal uncle (mama). Behind him are two large banners fixed to the wall.
One says, “Laado hum sharminda hain tere kaatil zinda hain. Haryana sarkar hosh mein aao. Hatyaron ko faarsi do. India wants justice for Nikita Tomar (dear, we are ashamed that your killers are still alive. Come to senses, Haryana government. Hang the killers. India wants justice for Nikita Tomar”.
Another says, “Nikita Tomar (1999-2020). Shot dead by Tousif in broad daylite for refusing to convert and marry him.”
This banner leaves no doubt about the family’s version of Tausif’s motive behind the murder.
That fateful day, Nikita has gone to the Milk Plant campus of Aggarwal College for writing the final examination for her Bachelors in Commerce (Honors) degree. The campus is around six kilometres away from her house in Sector 52 of Faridabad district of Haryana. Nikita’s brother Naveen, who was supposed to pick her up after the exam, was waiting at a relative’s house located quite close to the campus.
It was within the narrow time-span when Nikita was walking towards the relative’s house with her two friends that Tausif stopped by in a car, emerged with a pistol and shot her in the head. The CCTV footage shows another man – who was later identified as his friend Rehan – assisting Tausif in the act before the two speedily drive away.
Moolchand narrates that one of the two friends accompanying Nikita immediately called up his son Naveen. Nikita was taken to Faridabad’s Manavta Hospital but was declared brought dead.
“That man [Tausif] did not meet us even once. He never even approached us to ask what he wanted. He straightaway killed her,” he says.
The family, Rajputs by caste, are natives of Pilkhuwa in Ghaziabad district of adjoining Uttar Pradesh. Moolchand, an electrician by profession, shifted to Haryana about 30 years ago for better work prospects. Most of these years, he lived on rent. It was only a few years ago that he brought one floor of a house in a residential society in Faridabad.
“All these years, I and my wife have been spending every bit of our resources on children, in the hope that they would make something of themselves and uplift the family. I don’t remember even a day of vacation or self-indulgence,” says Moolchand.
“My father was an electrician too. I have seen very difficult days,” he adds. Moolchand, the eldest of four siblings, dropped put after school and began to earn to supplement the family’s income. After his father’s death, he owned up to the family responsibility and married off his sisters and helped settle his younger brothers, he says.
“When I look back at my life, all I see are struggles and hard work. I made education of my children my biggest priority. The madman has reduced years of our sacrifice and investment to a big zero.”
Nikita, the parents say, was a very bright student. “She stood first in her class throughout school. She was a darling of her teachers. She won many trophies and medals,” he says.
“Perhaps this was the reason why that man went after her even in school.”
Nikita studied in Faridabad’s Rawal International School located on Sohna Road. Tausif was two classes senior to her. Hindi daily Amar Ujala has reported a statement by one of Nikita’s friends that Tausif befriended Nikita at school by posing as Ankit. However, Nikita soon learnt of his religious identity.
Moolchand and his wife Vijaywati say they do not know about this. They say they never met Tausif, and he never approached them. In 2018, the family complained to the police that Tausif had kidnapped Nikita, after which the Ballabhgarh City police filed a first information report (FIR) under IPC section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person). Moolchand’s statement in the FIR (number 771/2018) says that around 9 am on 2 August, 2018, one of Nikita’s friends informed him that she had been forcibly taken away by Tausif in a car.
Curiously, the FIR does not mention Tausif in the suspect/accused column.
Moolchand does not wish to speak much about the case. He says Nikita was recovered after two-three hours the same day. “What we learnt later was that Tausif had offered to drop Nikita home in his car after an exam. She had agreed. But instead of dropping her home, he took her elsewhere,” he says. “When he got our girl back, we told the police we do not wish to pursue the case. Tausif comes from an influential politically-connected family whereas we are a middle-class family. We decided it was best to end the matter,” he says. The family gave an affidavit in local court that thee had been a misunderstanding.
As per reports, Tausif’s close relatives are influential members of the Congress party. Tausif’s uncle Chowdhary Aftab Ahmed is sitting Congress MLA from Haryana’s Nuh (earlier called Mewat). Tausif’s grandfather Chaudhary Kabir Ahmed was elected MLA from Nuh in 1975 and from Tauru in 1982. Tausif’s father Zakir Hussain was born of Kabir Ahmed’s second wife while Aftab Ahmed was born of Kabir Ahmed’s first wife. Tausif’s maternal uncle Islamuddin is serving a 10-year imprisonment in Bhondsi jail for kidnapping a policeman in Gurugram and is believed to have helped Tausif procure the firearm.
Vijaywati says that about a week before the murder, Nikita has revealed to her that Tausif was harassing her over the phone. The family told Nikita to stay at home and not step out alone. Even on 26 October, her mother had accompanied her brother to bring Nikita home from college.
“He was pressuring her to convert and marry her,” Vijaywati repeats the message printed on the banner outside her house. “She was only 21. We had no plans to marry her anytime soon. How could we, when her brother who is five years elder to her was yet to be married?”
“Nikita was a career-oriented child. Marriage wasn’t part of her plans at all. She had all the plans and desires to join the police or the Army,” she says. “She wanted to don the uniform. That was her burning desire.”
Vijaywati’s side of the family has several people serving in the Army, she says.
Nikita took the Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT) in October. “I only brought her the form. She was unsuccessful but told her that she is confident that she would clear the exam in 2021 with a bit more preparation,” says Moolchand.
As the family is beginning to come to terms with the loss and move on, they have a fresh challenge: Moolchand fears for the safety of his son and himself. “Fighting for justice is not easy. These policeman will be gone in a few days and we will be left all alone. His is a powerful family. We have been forced into this battle against them,” he says.
Several former and serving legislators, ministers and members from all political parties in the state including Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have visited him, says Moolchand, but adds that “in the end, I only have promises and assurances”.
He points to a table where a woman is sitting with equipment to test Covid-19. Moolchand says it’s a ploy by the district administration to stop protesters from gathering at his house.
Commenting on a mahapanchayat in Ballabhgarh to demand speedy justice for Nikita, Moolchand simply says, “It was done by samaj. As many as 36 castes participated in it.”
Outside Aggarwal College, students standing huddled in groups point to the spot where she was shot. It’s right outside the college, opposite a school. Security personnel are standing guard near the spot.
A woman, introducing herself as a BCom student, says Nikita was her collegemate in the Ballabhgarh campus of Aggarwal College. “Everybody is stunned. Even our families are not allowing us to return from the college alone,” she says.
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