In Nithari village, there is a sense of disbelief mixed with the jubilation of finally having won a seemingly insurmountable battle. The saheb from the big bungalow in D Block of Noida’s Sector 31 has finally been indicted for his alleged involvement in the murder of Rimpa Halder.
It was something they believed but did not expect to be upheld in a court of law.
So when the CBI court pronounced Moninder Singh Pandher guilty of conspiring to kill Halder with Surendra Koli, his servant, the reactions were guarded.
“We cannot really say anything till we know under which sections of the Indian Penal Code Pandher has been charged and what punishment he will get. We will feel vindicated only if we know he has been charged with murder. But the fact that he has finally been indicted as guilty is a positive development,” said Dil Bahadur Shahi, husband of Nanda Devi who was killed in the D-5 house.
Many said that Pandher would manage to get the order revoked in a higher court even if this one pronounced a rigorous term for him.
For Poonam Dhanu, whose three-and-a-half-year-old son Harsh was killed, even this recognition of Pandher’s guilt holds a lot of meaning. “Only God helps the poor. The CBI court judgement has reinstated our faith in courts,” said Dhanu. She said after Harsh was killed, her two children have been her only reason to live.
“My other son Jatin is 3 years old. I have another son, Adi, who is 18 months old now. I came out of my trauma for their sake,” she said.
The House of Horror, as bungalow number D-5 came to be known, had long dominated their lives, even before the gruesome murders started taking place. The owner was rich and influential. Most residents of Nithari are migrant workers from West Bengal and many of them worked as domestic helps in the houses in the posh colony.
When the CBI earlier chose not to indict Pandher in its chargesheet and instead focused simply on Koli for the murders, the residents said they had expected this – rich men like Pandher were never held accountable.
Nithari is waiting with bated breath for the sentence. Glued to their television sets, they tried to catch every little detail they could grasp. “Pandher should hang,” said Babita, neighbour of the Halders.