A seven-hour drive away from New Delhi, the epicentre of national outrage over the Nithari serial killings, the man whose complaint helped unearth the horror is in hiding, scared for his family’s safety and angry at the police.
In an interview to the Hindustan Times at his village home, Nand Lal alleged his family members had been assaulted by the Noida Police, and forced to sign a statement saying that his missing daughter Payal – since confirmed as having died in Nithari – was of “bad character”.
Nand Lal was interviewed by the Hindustan Times at his home in Pipliya village, about 250 kilometres northeast of New Delhi. He has been largely in hiding in the village since the scandal broke to national attention, and the main suspects – Moninder Singh Pandher and his servant Surender Koli – were arrested and body parts were dug out in and around Pandher’s home.
“It was the night of December 13 or 14, when my son and daughter-in-law were threatened and beaten up by the Noida Police, and forced to sign a confession saying that Payal’s character was questionable,” Lal said, sitting in the courtyard of his house. “They kept saying, `why are you trying to frame an innocent man?’”
The police denied the allegation. "I am not aware about any such incident. I met Nand Lal just two days back at Noida. We have cordial relations with him, and he has always helped us with investigations,” investigating officer Dinesh Yadav told HT.
His wife, son and daughter-in-law sat nearby, as his granddaughter ran around, unconcerned. Lal spoke haltingly, his voice sometimes choking, and his eyes lined with tears.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over the case from the Noida Police, which has been widely accused of doing little about the disappearance of children. According to papers available with the Hindustan Times, the police registered a First Information Report five months after Lal named Pandher and Koli in his complaint, and made no arrests until the end of December last year.
“On December 18, Simarjit Kaur, the police post in-charge at Nithari, visited this village. She ridiculed my family and told everyone about my daughter’s character,” Lal alleged. “The police in Noida had driven us crazy.” Lal says he will remain away from the media glare. “I am not scared, but I have to think of my family also. Had we stayed there, Moninder’s supporters would not have spared us. He has contacts with high profile people, they can do anything,” he said.
But he added, “A father who has lost his daughter has nothing more to lose. I am not bothered about my reputation. I only want justice.”
With inputs by Sobhana K