Sunday, February 04, 2007


The police was paid and were in cahoots with Moninder Singh Pandher. He financed AC Ist Class fares and doled out favours. In turn, the law-keepers used powerful connections, even calling the chief minister’s brother to escape punishment. A cover-up is still on. After a four-week-long investigation, a Tehelka-Star News exposé by Etmad A. Khan, Mihir Srivastava and Sanjay Dubey

Two to three lakh rupees. That’s all it took to silence the cops. So what if child after child went missing? Fending off their anxious parents was easy. They were poor, they belonged to that no-man’s-land called Nithari, where eking out a minimal living is hard enough and getting past a police stonewall is so herculean, few can muster the courage to stay the course.
Moninder Singh Pandher — Nithari’s serial killer — offered the police everything the parents of the missing children never could. He had wealth, powerful connections, free gifts to hand out, Boleros to drive low-paid sub-inspectors around. Some policemen, in turn, had powerful connections. Powerful Yadav connections.
So when Nand Lal, the father of 20-year-old Payal — who went missing on May 7, 2006 — arrived at the Nithari chowki, the men and women in uniform were already well-versed with the drill. Push him about. Send him around in circles. Accuse him of malafide intent and, if he still persists, summon his family members and give them a thrashing. If he has the guts to show up again, hurl accusations at him and scare him into going underground.
Nand Lal was forced to look for a hide-out, but he managed to outwit a viciously callous police force that had formed a sinister ring to protect Pandher and his servant and accomplice Surendra Koli.
Nand Lal had courage and he had tenacity. But for his statement to the CBI, which is now investigating the case, he keeps a low profile. He has little to lose but, scared that the cops who colluded with Pandher — six have been terminated and three suspended — might seek revenge, he prefers to stay in hiding. But it is his perseverance that forced the police to D-5, the infamous Noida house that Pandher lived in, where they found the bones of dozens of murdered children, sackfuls of them. They found the surgical instruments that Koli used to cut the bodies up after rigor mortis set in. They also found the rope with which the young victims were strangled till the life was snuffed out of them.
Payal’s slippers were discovered in the garage and her purse, in which she had a mere Rs 20, was found under a pillow.
Nand Lal’s story is harrowing. It is hair- raising. But for his dogged grit, the serial killers would still be on their rampage. In a severe indictment of its own force, a UP government inquiry committee (see box) notes that if the police — Gautam Budh Nagar SSP, RKS Rathore in particular — had lodged Nand Lal’s FIR in time, the lives of seven children would have been saved. Instead, the police lodged the FIR on October 7, five months after Payal disappeared, and only after the courts had ordered them to.
What is shocking — and what has still not been told — are the terrible details of how Nand Lal was treated by the men and women in uniform as he went from one police station to another, one officer to the next.
The day before Payal disappeared, she received a call from Koli who asked her to come to Pandher’s house on May 7. Nand Lal saw her off in the evening the next day. It was the last time he was to see his daughter. “She had only Rs 20 with her. I gave her my mobile,” he recalls. By 7:30pm, she could not be contacted. It was getting dark and Nand Lal was worried. Repeated attempts at calling her met with the same response — a recorded monotone voice that said the phone had been switched off.
A long, gruelling journey had just begun. The anxious father knew his daughter had gone to Pandher’s, where she had visited twice before, but he did not have the address. What he did have was Pandher’s mobile number. When she did not return that night, Nand Lal called up Pandher who said he was in Chandigarh and that his servant Koli was at home. “But why did your servant say you wanted to see her,” asked Nand Lal, to which Pandher said that it was unlikely and told him to call again in the evening. The desperate father called continuously for five hours that evening, but Pandher never took his call.
Nand Lal had only one option — to find Pandher’s house. It took him some days to do so and, when he did, he was misled by the domestic help at d-6, who told him that Pandher lived next door with his family. This assuaged Nand Lal’s fears a bit. He thought his daughter would be fine since Pandher was a family man.
The relief was shortlived. When Nand Lal finally met Koli at D-5, the servant denied he had even telephoned Payal. This led to an altercation. Amar Haldar, a rickshaw puller, overheard the argument. He later told Nand Lal that he had brought a girl from Sector 19 to the house three days before. He also said that he saw the girl leave a while later in a Maruti car with a fat, fair man (now identified as SK Sharma, a key aide of Pandher and a manager in his company). Tehelka has call details that show that SK Sharma was in touch with Pandher that evening.
When Nand Lal showed Haldar the photograph of Payal he was carrying with him, Haldar identified the girl. Nand Lal thought he now had enough evidence of the fact that his daughter had indeed come to the Pandher residence, and he decided to inform the police immediately. He went to the Nithari chowki and the in-charge KP Singh summoned Koli, but let him go after a cursory interrogation. Why did that happen? Tehelka has learnt that SK Sharma visited the chowki that day. Sharma admits as much on a Tehelka spycam. The pertinent question is: why was Pandher’s manager in touch with the police? The answer is chilling. Both Pandher and Sharma were in regular touch with the Nithari cops.
But Nand Lal had no way of knowing this. He persisted in his search for his daughter and kept on visiting the police station. All KP Singh would tell him was that he was trying to get Payal’s phone records. Nand Lal tried approaching Deepak Chaturvedi, station officer at Noida’s Sector 20 police station. Chaturvedi brushed him aside and, like KP Singh, refused to lodge an FIR. Desperate, Nand Lal got a news item printed in a local paper in the hope that the police might react. But nothing was going to make them move.
After a month of inaction, Nand Lal decided to go right to the top and went to meet SSP Rathore. Rathore directed the si attached to his office, OP Sharma, to look into the matter. Sharma, did not do much. The matter was then assigned to SI Gajendra Singh, who called Pandher, Koli, Sharma and Pandher’s driver Pan Singh to the SSP’s office. In a first, the cops talked tough, and told the men that the girl would have to be returned within four days. Was it mere posturing? It would seem to be so because the police still did not lodge an FIR. Nand Lal met Rathore again, taking a few local journalists along, who demanded that he explain the police inaction in the matter. Rathore said it had been brought to his notice only four days before. Tested to the limit by now, Nand Lal burst out: “But the matter has been with the police for the last two months and they are all your men.”
Mysteriously, after meeting Pandher, Gajendra became as soft as all the others who had dealt with the case before him. “Gajendra started telling me the same old story, about getting the phone details,” says Nand Lal. And when he did get the details, they were patently fraudulent. Nand Lal was shown a call record for the month of June while he was sure the phone had been switched off on May 7 itself.
Nand Lal approached SSP Rathore once again. This time, the SSP sent a constable to get a complaint registered. The Sector 20 so, Deepak Chaturvedi, registered a complaint — a missing person’s complaint instead of an FIR as is mandated in such cases. This was on June 29, 2006.
In a Tehelka sting, Saumitra Yadav — SP (City) for 18 months, now suspended for negligence of duty — acknowledged the police apathy to Payal’s case. He recapitulates: “After the complaint was not registered, Nand Lal went to the SSP. The SSP deputed an SI in his office, OP Sharma, to look into the matter. The case was then given to Gajendra Singh of the sog team, who investigated it with Nand Lal. After the investigation, Singh concluded that an FIR should be registered. But instead of an FIR, a missing person’s case was registered on June 29 in the Sector 20 police station.”
Nand Lal met Rathore yet again to complain that a ‘missing’ report does not amount to an FIR but the only words the district’s senior-most police officer had for the distraught father were: “Once the call details are out, everything will be clear.” Rathore’s subordinates had already shown Nand Lal fake records, and none of them had made any effort to secure the actual phone records, for which Nand Lal had to knock on the doors of a consumer court.
In the meantime, Nand Lal had also met a sub inspector called Vinod Pandey, the Nithari chowki in-charge from July 21 to August 27, 2006. At 11 o’clock one night, he called Nand Lal to the chowki and told him he had arrested Koli. “He assured me he would solve the case that day itself,” says Nand Lal. “Then he got a call from so Chaturvedi. He went to meet him, and after he returned half-an-hour later, he let Koli go.” Nand Lal protested. All Pandey had to say was: “We will catch both of them together.”
Nand Lal had been driven almost to despair, but his tenacity did not allow him to give up. He wrote to the President, the prime minister, the chief justice of India, the chief minister, the human rights commission and to high-ups in the state police and administration. He also took the matter to court. As he later said, the thought that kept him going was: “I have lost my child. I will fight so long as I am alive.”
The matter was taken up at the court of the district chief judicial magistrate (CJM). The court sought a clarification from the police. The then chowki in-charge, Sati Chauhan, went on record to oppose the registration of an FIR, on the grounds that Payal had eloped. In her report, she quoted Nand Lal’s neighbour and landlord to corroborate her claim, but when contacted by Tehelka, they said no one from the police had ever come to them for any information.
But Nand Lal’s perseverance finally paid off when the CJM directed the police to register an FIR on September 27. It still took the cops 10 days to follow the directive, and the FIR was registered only on October 7. In the meantime, Pandher had approached the sessions court asking for the directive to be overturned on the plea that Nand Lal had been blackmailing him.
Why did the police sit still for 10 days? Why were they dragging their feet on a CJM directive , risking the court’s ire? The answer: Pandher’s nexus was at work once again, with the cops were in cahoots.
Tehelka’s spycam caught the sordid truth. Sub Inspector Vinod Pandey, unaware that he was being recorded, said: “SK Sharma paid money on Pandher’s behalf… Simranjeet Kaur (the Nithari chowki in-charge since November) was paid two-and-a-half lakhs to cover up the matter.”
Sharma, when contacted by Tehelka, denied having paid the money but said, “Whatever was sent was sent directly by Sardarji (Pandher) and his relatives.” That Pandher had considerable camaraderie with Kaur is evident from the fact that they called each other 38 times between 17 November and December 20. Residents of Nithari have also confirmed that Simranjit was a regular visitor to D-5.
After the courts forced the FIR, Simranjeet Kaur went with Nand Lal to D-5 for the first time. Standing outside the bungalow, she said, “What a nice house. I should be living here.” Nand Lal says, “It was like somebody rubbing salt into my wounds.” He remembers how indulgently she spoke to Koli later on, saying: “Beta, tell me. Tell me if Payal had come here.”
For the first time in the six months since Payal’s disappearance, Pandher had begun to feel the pressure, enough to approach the Allahabad High Court for anticipatory bail. He had the police on his side but was not sure what the courts would do, now that Nand Lal had managed to get a hearing from them.
The court summoned Nand Lal and the police to appear on November 13. The summons were faxed to the Nithari police on November 8, and Tehelka has documents to prove that Kaur received the fax the same day. But she passed the information on to Nand Lal only at the last moment, the day before the hearing. But the father, anxious to get justice for his daughter, travelled overnight to Allahabad and made it to court on time.
If this is shocking, read on. Pandher actually paid ac First Class fares for the Noida cops to make their court appearances. They went to the Allahabad High Court thrice and Pandher footed the bill each time. Simranjit Kaur went to Allahabad twice in November, once with a police constable, and then again with Station Officer SP Singh. She and Dinesh Yadav undertook another AC First Class journey in early December. All three trips were made on the Prayag Raj Express, and the travel vouchers for all of them have been recovered by the CBI from Pandher’s factory.
The police actually had the gumption to present in court the fake call record they had given Nand Lal. Public prosecutor Amarjeet Singh took strong exception to this cover-up and instructed the police to present the relevant call details. Once that was done, the whole complexion of the case changed. Pandher’s petition was rejected and the High Court ordered that the case be investigated by dsp Dinesh Yadav.
But who was to tell the court that Dinesh Yadav was completely on Pandher’s side? Late one night, soon after he took charge of the case in mid-December, he summoned Nand Lal, and later his son Prakash and daughter-in-law Priya as well, and beat them up at the Sector 20 police station. Pandher and Koli were present at the time. In Nand Lal’s account, he says: “I tried to explain the entire case to Dinesh Yadav. Pandher was also there. He said it was all a lie, that the girl (Payal) was blackmailing him for money. This was his statement to the police.
Then Priya, and Prakash were summoned and thrashed. Dinesh Yadav, Pandey and Kaur slapped Priya. They told us we were all trying to defame a good man and that we ourselves were the culprits.” Pandher’s police collaborators forced Nand Lal to say his daughter was a call girl, and recorded him words on a mobile phone.
Nand Lal says that after Dinesh Yadav left, those remaining told Koli to cook them a big meal and they all went to D-5 together. Nand Lal and his family were sent back home at four in the morning. Prakash, Priya and Nand Lal’s younger son Amit left for their village within an hour of their return, and Nand Lal went into hiding.
In the third week of December, Simranjit Kaur went to Nand Lal’s village in Uttarakhand. There, she tried to convince the entire village that Payal was actually alive and had eloped to Mumbai. She told the village head Nand Lal was trying to blackmail Pandher for Rs 20-25 lakh. Villagers confirmed not just this but another stunning piece of information: Simranjit Kaur travelled to the village in Pandher’s company car, a Bolero with a jcb nameplate on it. Pandher, as is well known, was a jcb distributor, dealing with earth crushers and bulldozers.
Nothing, however, seems to have shamed the Noida police. Not even the sacks of skeletal remains that the CBI dredged out of the drain behind D-5. When asked why the police had failed to find those sacks, SSP Rathore said, “We had a law and order situation on our hands. Besides, we were busy with vip visits.”
What the police was in fact busy with is quite another story. They had moved by then into cover-up mode — and they still are. Consider the following disturbing facts:
> The Noida Police did not produce Nand Lal in front of the two-member high-level committee that conducted an inquiry into the role of the district police.
> One day before the committee arrived on January 1, 2007, Dinesh Yadav called Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brother Shivpal Singh Yadav thrice. Why would a dsp call the cm’s brother?
> Despite finding Dinesh Yadav guilty on several counts, including the non-registeration of an FIR, the committee only recommended minor punishment. Is it because of the Yadav connection?
> Parents of missing children have confirmed that they had been tutored by Dinesh Yadav to not name him and SSP Rathore.
> Even when the CBI sent for Nand Lal, it was Vinod Pandey, by then a dismissed officer, who drove him. Why?
The entire truth behind the Nithari killings is still to unfold. Nand Lal has pointed to many of its sickening facets. It stinks of money and powerful connections.
Assisted by Prawal Srivastava

"Lead me from the unreal to the Real;
Lead me from darkness to Light;
Lead me from death to Immortality. "

"Asato ma sad gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrtyor ma amritam gamaya."


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