Love, dishonour, and a grisly hate crime

Updated on Dec 01, 2022 03:45 PM IST

Using case papers, interviews of police investigators and family members, HT pieced together the story of the young woman whose life ended one November afternoon allegedly at the hands of her parents, who then mounted an audacious cover-up in a misguided attempt to follow caste and community strictures, even at a tragic cost.

ByShiv Sunny, Mathura/badarpur

It was shortly after 7am when three men from Uttar Pradesh Police walked into the cramped, low-income neighbourhood in Badarpur’s Molarband Extension on November 20. Their destination was a two-storey house in Gali 65. The police team was under some pressure. A day before, they had found a red roll-on suitcase by the side of the Yamuna Expressway in Mathura, with the body of a woman stuffed inside. Based on a tip, the police landed in the south Delhi neighbourhood on Sunday morning. But once inside, as they started questioning the grandparents and mother of the woman — the father was away at work — they came up against a wall. The grandparents said they couldn’t recognise the young woman in the photo, and their daughter-in-law was certain that she had never seen the woman before. When asked where her daughter was, the middle-aged woman, Brijbala Yadav, said her daughter had left home four-to-five days ago and hadn’t returned. “Brijbala looked unfazed and unbothered while holding the victim’s photo,” said Martand Prakash Singh, superintendent of police of Mathura (city).

After about 15 minutes of questioning, the police gave up. They were about to leave when a 15-year-old boy, Ayush, walked into the room. “While leaving, one of the policemen casually decided to show the photo to the boy as a last-ditch effort,” Singh said.To their surprise, the boy confirmed that the photo was of his 22-year-old sister, Ayushi Yadav. “The boy was unaware his sister was killed by their parents,” the officer said.

That breakthrough led to the unravelling of a story of a young woman who dared to love beyond her community, married in secret, rebelled against her parents and dreamt of living an independent life with her husband. Using case papers, interviews of police investigators and family members, HT pieced together the story of the young woman whose life ended one November afternoon allegedly at the hands of her parents, who then mounted an audacious cover-up in a misguided attempt to follow caste and community strictures, even at a tragic cost.

“Ayushi was an adult and married as per her own wishes. This caused conflict in her family,” said Singh, adding that the parents didn’t want her married in another caste, in a family of lower financial stature.

Ayushi’s husband said that her only crime was falling in love with him.

“All she did was to ensure we had a life together,” said her 22-year-old husband, a college student in Bharatpur in Rajasthan who requested anonymity because of continuing threats over the intercaste relationship.

A clandestine relationship

The Yadav family lived in a lower middle-income neighbourhood in south Delhi. Having moved from Deoria around 25 years ago, Nitesh Yadav and Brijbala Yadav ran an electronics business in Noida. Ayushi lived with her brother, parents and paternal grandparents.

According to the police, Ayushi fared well academically. Singh said she cracked the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) two years ago, but instead of enrolling in a medical college, began pursuing a BCA course from a west Delhi college in Janakpuri. This irked her parents and they suspected she was neglecting her studies because of her relationship with a man, said Singh.

They weren’t wrong in that respect.

The relationship began around six years ago, said her husband, and drew almost immediate disapproval from her parents because he belonged to the Gujjar caste. Police said the husband’s father was posted in Delhi as a paramilitary personnel and a cousin introduced them.

Neighbours confirmed the relationship. “Many would gossip about her relationship but no one found it unusual,” said a neighbour, Poonam Tiwari.

Ayushi’s parents believed that her act of defiance was hurting their reputation in the neighbourhood. “When her father scolded her, she shouted back ,” said her grandmother, Jamvanti.

The couple married in October 2021 in a secret ceremony at an Arya Samaj Mandir in Delhi, said the SP. Neither family was told and the marriage happened in the absence of any relatives.

“Ayushi wanted to be a software engineer, and I wanted a government job. We thought we would finish our education, get jobs and settle down somewhere else,” said her husband.

They would meet clandestinely in Delhi for two-three days every few months. In September, they even got their marriage registered in a court in Shahdara, said the police. But unknown to the couple, Ayushi’s repeated absence from the house was noticed by her parents. In early October, during a heated quarrel at home, Ayushi blurted out the truth about her marital status. “She produced her marriage certificate as evidence,” said the SP, quoting Ayushi’s parents. It would prove to be a fatal mistake.

Murder cover-up

Around noon on November 17, when Ayushi returned home after meeting her husband, her mother was waiting for her, said Singh. A quarrel ensued. Brijbala immediately dialled her husband and called him home from Noida. “When Nitesh arrived home to confront his daughter around 2pm, the situation escalated further, abuses were hurled. Ayushi told her parents that she wanted to live her life on her own terms. It culminated in Nitesh pulling out his .32 bore licensed pistol and shooting Ayushi twice in her bedroom on the first floor of their house,” Singh added.

One bullet tore through the right side of her forehead and another pieced her left chest and emerged from her back, said Alok Singh, circle officer (CO) of Mathura’s Mahavan region.

Police later found out that while the alleged murder may not have been premeditated, everything else that followed was carefully planned. Brijbala, in particular, was allegedly actively involved in the criminal cover-up, said Singh.

“The couple’s first response was panic. They closed the door behind them. But once they recovered, Nitesh went out to buy a large transparent plastic sheet. They wrapped their daughter’s body in that sheet and cleaned the blood on the floor with chemicals. Thereafter, they picked out the biggest suitcase at their home,” Singh said.

The body was stuffed in the suitcase and kept in the bathroom; the couple allegedly locked her room from the outside and behaved normally when their son returned home in the evening. They decided to wait until late in the night before dumping the body. “The plan was to dump it in Deoria from where they hail. They hoped to take advantage of their familiarity with the place,” said Singh.

“Around 3am, Nitesh brought the suitcase out through the rear door, dragged it through the lane till his car and then kept it on the back seat,” said Singh.

As they set out for a 12-hour drive to Deoria, around 875km away, the couple began worrying if they would safely make it. “As they reached Mathura via Palwal and Hodal, morning light was beginning to emerge. That caused them to panic and worry about being discovered. So, they decided to dispose the suitcase along the Yamuna Expressway,” said Alok Singh.

The unravelling

It was a watchman who noticed the abandoned suitcase on November 18. Around 11am, he dialled the police, who found the body and realised the victim was killed less than 24 hours ago. Accompanying the police was a swarm of local journalists who clicked photos of the victim’s face. Against the backdrop of Shraddha Walkar’s gruesome alleged murder in Delhi, it didn’t take long for images of the victim to go viral on social media.

By evening, the victim’s image had reached the phones of residents in Molarband Extension. “We were so sure it was Ayushi in the photo. But her parents were behaving so normally that we thought we were mistaken,” said Reema Devi.

On November 19, Mathura Police dispatched a small team to the national capital region to coordinate with their counterparts. Given that the expressway connected to the NCR, the police suspected the victim may have belonged to the Capital. “One of the policemen had a Delhi-based relative. When that relative checked the photo, he said it was Ayushi because he knew the family. He revealed Ayushi’s address,” said the SP.

On November 20, as the police interrogated the family, Brijbala was steadfast that her daughter was alive and away from home. But once her son identified Ayushi, her defences were breached. “All of a sudden, not only was the victim identified, but there were also suspects in her murder,” the SP said.

The same day, Nitesh, Brijbala and their son were brought to Mathura for identification of the body. “Only Brijbala and her son were taken for identification. As soon as Brijbala saw her daughter’s face, her motherly instincts kicked in and she began howling,” Singh said.

From thereon, it didn’t take long. Police checked CCTV footage along the route to identify the car at a toll plaza at 4.56 am on November 18, and on the Yamuna Expressway at 7.06am. “The second footage clearly captured Nitesh in the driver’s seat and his wife next to him,” the SP said.

The couple was arrested and booked for murder and destruction of evidence. Nitesh’s car, the licensed revolver allegedly used in the murder, two empty cartridges and Ayushi’s phone were recovered as evidence. Investigators said they found blood samples in Ayushi’s bedroom.

An uncertain future

It’s now been more than a week since Ayushi was killed. In Molarband, the mood is sombre. Jamvanti is busy praying even as neighbours try to get over the shock. The parents are in police custody and Jamvanti’s only defence is that neither she not her husband were aware of the murder. “My son will bear the consequences if he killed his daughter,” she said.

Hundreds of kilometres away in Bharatpur, her young husband is not only distraught at the untimely death of his wife, but also fearful of his safety. His family members say he hid the marriage too, and now worry that media attention will threaten his well-being. “His father will kill him if he gets to know that he got married in another caste,” said the husband’s cousin at their home in Bharatpur.

The 22-year-old man is staying away from the village. “Our family will be destroyed if the community gets to know... we’ll be ostracised, the young people in my family will struggle to get married,” he said over the phone. “And for what? All we ever wanted was a normal life.”

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