Ram Parvesh, a rickshaw puller from Nithari, has a recurrent nightmare. He is ferrying schoolchildren to a block near the house of the main accused in the serial murders, Moninder Singh Pandher. "Never talk to strangers," he tells the children. He then looks back at his rickshaw — and sees headless bodies on the seat.
Mohsin Ahmed, 55, lives in a hut near the water tank close to which many children went missing. Recently, he thought he saw a small girl crying for help on the stairs leading up to the tank. But there was no girl there. "I will shift to my cousin’s house in Sector 59," he says. "What if my eight-year-old daughter starts seeing the same things?"
Parvesh and Ahmed are not the only ones ‘hearing’ and ‘seeing’ things. What psychologists call post-traumatic stress disorder is rampant among people at Nithari village.
At the Radha Krishna temple, Mahant Sevak Das Maharaj says: "Many parents come here with complaints that their children have started seeing things since the news broke."
Rajender, one of the PAC constables posted outside house No D-5, says he does not believe "such things". "But what happened inside the house makes my job a little difficult," he says.
Rajat Mitra, a criminal psychologist, says things will probably only get worse. "The khaki and media presence in the village might offer some sense of security," he says. "But the incident is going to have an even more adverse impact on the residents when normalcy returns."