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Nithari residents celebrate with dancing and sweets

They poured of out of their homes through the narrow and muck-filled bylanes, both the old and young, exchanging sweets, erupting into spontaneous jigs before TV cameras and celebrating the moment they thought was never the lot of the poor.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2009 07:52 IST

They poured of out of their homes through the narrow and muck-filled bylanes, both the old and young, exchanging sweets, erupting into spontaneous jigs before TV cameras and celebrating the moment they thought was never the lot of the poor.

After waiting for two years for justice, Nithari, the tiny urban village on the edge of Delhi, erupted with joy Friday afternoon as Moninder Singh Pandher and Surendra Koli, accused of the gory rape and murder of 19 of their children, were sentenced to death.

This was the first verdict in the killings that came into light in December 2006 and shocked the nation for their barbarity.

A number of villagers had fasted since Friday morning in anticipation of the judgement that many said would end up in "favour of the rich (like businessman Pandher)".

"My family and I were fasting since morning in prayer that the two (Pandher and Koli) get death sentence for their heinous crime. The sentence is befitting of the gruesome manner in which these two killed our innocent children," Ram Kishan, father of one of the four-year-old victims, told IANS.

"I finally have some hope of getting justice for my child. I distributed sweets in the neighbourhood, but the actual celebration will take place the day these two butchers are actually hanged," he said emphatically.

While most of the residents of this tiny village, mostly inhabited by people who work as maids and servants in the nearby homes of the rich and do small jobs, could hardly sleep a wink the night before the sentence was pronounced.

Dil Bahadur's wife Nanda Devi's skull was also recovered from the same drain where the skeletons of the other victims were found. However, his case was closed once the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had taken over the investigation.

"When the CBI closed the case, I was in Nepal with my children. Since then I have been fighting tooth and nail to reopen the case and get justice for my wife. Going to and from Nepal, where my kids now live, has not been easy," Dil Bahadur, who is from Nepal, told IANS.

"But after yesterday's pronouncement that Pandher and Koli were guilty, I could finally sleep with some peace. Today's verdict has boosted my confidence to reopen my wife's case even stronger," Bahadur said.

Minu Sharma, another resident, said that the verdict has brought some relief to the grief-stricken village of a few hundred people.

"Finally justice is done. I was so worried that they will get away somehow?but now I am relieved," she said.

Some however said that they are still worried that Pandher or Koli may escape punishment as a higher court may exonerate them.

Jhabbu Lal, father of one of the child victims, Jyoti, said: "We are happy with the sentencing. But nevertheless, we are apprehensive that they may get away after appealing in the higher court and maybe even bribing the officials".

And like most others, he too added: "We will actually feel vindicated after these two are actually hanged".