“We see a dark future ahead, as it’s a never-ending struggle to live with ‘killer’s family’ tag,” said Shanti Koli, the 27-year-old wife of Surinder Koli, convicted for Nithari serial killings.
His family — 65-year-old mother Kunti Devi, Shanti, and two children, aged seven and four — lives in abject poverty, 375 km from Delhi in a village of about 60 hutments.
The house doesn’t have an electricity connection, is made of stone slabs and cemented with mud. Of late, it has developed a few deep cracks. The two children are barely clothed properly in torn sweaters.
“This house can crumble anytime. Sometimes it is hard to even arrange for R2 to pay for my daughter’s monthly school fee. But my children’s education will go on. I think we may need to sell our domestic animals,” Shanti said.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court upheld Surinder’s death sentence in the first of the murders. He was convicted of raping and killing young girls and children after luring them into his employer Moninder Singh Pandher’s house in upscale Sector 31 in Noida. A total of 16 cases are registered against Surinder. In four, he was convicted and sentenced to death.
“He never had those tendencies. He never shouted, never argued with neighbours and treated all children lovingly. Even if for a moment I think he did it, he did not do it alone,” she said.
The only person who supported them was Shanti’s father, who died two months ago.
“I don’t know what to do, how to survive with two children. Even getting a small-time job is next to impossible. People don’t offer any work because of my husband’s crime. Are we also accused?” Shanti, who studied till Class 5, asked.
“Since the news broke, life has been a struggle as every finger points at us. We are known as the killer’s family instead of by our names. No one speaks to us or help us out. We are virtually outcasts in the village. Even Surinder’s two brothers have deserted us,” Shanti said.
“The reason for our suffering is that we are not resourceful. It is a ‘class fight’ for us. That’s our fate. I have now left everything to the Almighty,” said Devi in Kumaoni, with Shanti translating it into Hindi.
“The last time I saw my husband was in December 2006, when he was called by someone to Ram Nagar. He was later arrested by the police for the crime,” said Shanti. The family never met Surinder since he was arrested and seldom hear news about the case.
“I don’t know what is going on in the case or how he is. Does he even remember us?” Shanti said.