In 2003, when her murder hit the headlines, journalists stood outside her house reporting every detail for two weeks. 13 years later, Sunita Chadha’s death has been pushed to oblivion.
It was Delhi’s first case of anger spilling on to the road -- an incident that shook public consciousness and sparked discussions on road rage.
As part of the special series on road-rage deaths, when the HT team set out to meet the family of Sunita, who was 36 years old then, nobody remembered where she lived. Police records were misplaced when police districts were being carved out. “It will take some time to find her address,” a police officer said.
A few old crime reporters remembered standing outside her bungalow in Rohini. Somehow we found the address where her family lives. But it is not a bungalow any more.
Sunita’s mother, 65-year old Kamala Zutshi opened the doors to her two-room flat above a real estate agent’s office in Rohini. She led us to a room with a framed photograph of her daughter on the wall.
“Times have been difficult. We sold the bungalow and shifted here. Sunita had three daughters, all in their teens. I had to take care of them,” she said.
The call Sunita never answered
It was the night of May 2, 2003. Sunita’s eldest daughter Rashmi was waiting for her to return home and drop her sisters Pooja and Rachana to the nearby DAV School. The two had a field trip to Shimla. “They were getting late. My mom called saying she had left her friend’s house. We waited. When she did not come, I called her but there was no answer,” Rashmi said.
Rashmi, who was 16 then, dropped her sisters in a taxi with a relative. About an hour later, she called her mother again. A man answered the phone this time.
“There was a police officer on the line,” Rashmi said. “He said my mom had an accident. He told me to rush to hospital. I ran for at least half-an-hour but by the time I reached, she had died. They shot her twice in the chest,” she said.
Returning home that night in her Maruti Esteem car around 10, Sunita saw three men assaulting a girl on a scooter. There was an accident involving their car and the girl’s scooter. According to police records, Sunita stopped her car and intervened. The girl fled.
The two shot her dead point blank.
No closure yet
Kamala barely remembers the first year after her daughter’s death. She read about the men who were arrested but does not remember their names. “My daughter is gone. I know I would never get her back. I don’t even remember their faces. Their rage took my daughter away. Sunita paid a heavy price for helping others,” she said.
The case is under trial. Last year, Sunita’s ex-husband Joginder Chadha was called to give his statement to the Rohini court. “There is no justice. The court is still looking at the evidence. Those men are roaming free. I have nothing more to say,” Joginder told HT.
Chadha said road rage cases continue to remind him of his wife. “I wonder when we will get justice. Some years ago, I shouted at a public prosecutor who was defending the three men who killed her. The kids lost their mother while they continue to roam the streets freely,” said Chadha.
‘Nothing to lose’
Kamala has no one to look after her now. Her younger son lives in Japan. She visits him regularly but prefers to stay in Delhi.
Rashmi meets her regularly and drives her when her grandmother has to step out.
“I love this city. In Japan, neighbours do not talk to each other. I was 15 when I was married and brought here. There are bad people in this city but this is where I belong. I will never leave this city,” she said.
In a city, infamous for senior citizens’ safety, we advised Kamala not to open the door to strangers without verifying.
The 65-year-old said, “Kaun kya leke jayega, Sab toh leke gaye. (Who will take anything? Everything has been taken already.”