Two to three lakh
rupees. That’s all it took to silence the cops. So what if child
after child went missing? Fending off their anxious parents was easy.
They were poor, they belonged to that no-man’s-land called Nithari,
where eking out a minimal living is hard enough and getting past a police
stonewall is so herculean, few can muster the courage to stay the course.
Pandher — Nithari’s serial killer — offered the police
everything the parents of the missing children never could. He had wealth,
powerful connections, free gifts to hand out, Boleros to drive low-paid
sub-inspectors around. Some policemen, in turn, had powerful connections.
Powerful Yadav connections.
So when Nand Lal,
the father of 20-year-old Payal — who went missing on May 7, 2006
— arrived at the Nithari chowki, the men and women in uniform
were already well-versed with the drill. Push him about. Send him around
in circles. Accuse him of malafide intent and, if he still persists,
summon his family members and give them a thrashing. If he has the guts
to show up again, hurl accusations at him and scare him into going underground.
Nand Lal was forced
to look for a hide-out, but he managed to outwit a viciously callous
police force that had formed a sinister ring to protect Pandher and
his servant and accomplice Surendra Koli.
Nand Lal had courage
and he had tenacity. But for his statement to the CBI, which is now
investigating the case, he keeps a low profile. He has little to lose
but, scared that the cops who colluded with Pandher — six have
been terminated and three suspended — might seek revenge, he prefers
to stay in hiding. But it is his perseverance that forced the police
to D-5, the infamous Noida house that Pandher lived in, where they found
the bones of dozens of murdered children, sackfuls of them. They found
the surgical instruments that Koli used to cut the bodies up after rigor
mortis set in. They also found the rope with which the young victims
were strangled till the life was snuffed out of them.
were discovered in the garage and her purse, in which she had a mere
Rs 20, was found under a pillow.
Kaur came to my village in Pandher’s car and said he was
a good man, a big industrialist. She said Payal had eloped to
story is harrowing. It is hair- raising. But for his dogged grit, the
serial killers would still be on their rampage. In a severe indictment
of its own force, a UP government inquiry committee (see box) notes
that if the police — Gautam Budh Nagar SSP, RKS Rathore in particular
— had lodged Nand Lal’s FIR in time, the lives of seven
children would have been saved. Instead, the police lodged the FIR on
October 7, five months after Payal disappeared, and only after the courts
had ordered them to.
What is shocking
— and what has still not been told — are the terrible details
of how Nand Lal was treated by the men and women in uniform as he went
from one police station to another, one officer to the next.
The day before Payal
disappeared, she received a call from Koli who asked her to come to
Pandher’s house on May 7. Nand Lal saw her off in the evening
the next day. It was the last time he was to see his daughter. “She
had only Rs 20 with her. I gave her my mobile,” he recalls. By
7:30pm, she could not be contacted. It was getting dark and Nand Lal
was worried. Repeated attempts at calling her met with the same response
— a recorded monotone voice that said the phone had been switched
A long, gruelling
journey had just begun. The anxious father knew his daughter had gone
to Pandher’s, where she had visited twice before, but he did not
have the address. What he did have was Pandher’s mobile number.
When she did not return that night, Nand Lal called up Pandher who said
he was in Chandigarh and that his servant Koli was at home. “But
why did your servant say you wanted to see her,” asked Nand Lal,
to which Pandher said that it was unlikely and told him to call again
in the evening. The desperate father called continuously for five hours
that evening, but Pandher never took his call.
Nand Lal had only
one option — to find Pandher’s house. It took him some days
to do so and, when he did, he was misled by the domestic help at d-6,
who told him that Pandher lived next door with his family. This assuaged
Nand Lal’s fears a bit. He thought his daughter would be fine
since Pandher was a family man.
The relief was shortlived.
When Nand Lal finally met Koli at D-5, the servant denied he had even
telephoned Payal. This led to an altercation. Amar Haldar, a rickshaw
puller, overheard the argument. He later told Nand Lal that he had brought
a girl from Sector 19 to the house three days before. He also said that
he saw the girl leave a while later in a Maruti car with a fat, fair
man (now identified as SK Sharma, a key aide of Pandher and a manager
in his company). Tehelka has call details that show that SK Sharma was
in touch with Pandher that evening.
When Nand Lal showed
Haldar the photograph of Payal he was carrying with him, Haldar identified
the girl. Nand Lal thought he now had enough evidence of the fact that
his daughter had indeed come to the Pandher residence, and he decided
to inform the police immediately. He went to the Nithari chowki and
the in-charge KP Singh summoned Koli, but let him go after a cursory
interrogation. Why did that happen? Tehelka has learnt that SK Sharma
visited the chowki that day. Sharma admits as much on a Tehelka spycam.
The pertinent question is: why was Pandher’s manager in touch
with the police? The answer is chilling. Both Pandher and Sharma were
in regular touch with the Nithari cops.
But Nand Lal had
no way of knowing this. He persisted in his search for his daughter
and kept on visiting the police station. All KP Singh would tell him
was that he was trying to get Payal’s phone records. Nand Lal
tried approaching Deepak Chaturvedi, station officer at Noida’s
Sector 20 police station. Chaturvedi brushed him aside and, like KP
Singh, refused to lodge an FIR. Desperate, Nand Lal got a news item
printed in a local paper in the hope that the police might react. But
nothing was going to make them move.
After a month of
inaction, Nand Lal decided to go right to the top and went to meet SSP
Rathore. Rathore directed the si attached to his office, OP Sharma,
to look into the matter. Sharma, did not do much. The matter was then
assigned to SI Gajendra Singh, who called Pandher, Koli, Sharma and
Pandher’s driver Pan Singh to the SSP’s office. In a first,
the cops talked tough, and told the men that the girl would have to
be returned within four days. Was it mere posturing? It would seem to
be so because the police still did not lodge an FIR. Nand Lal met Rathore
again, taking a few local journalists along, who demanded that he explain
the police inaction in the matter. Rathore said it had been brought
to his notice only four days before. Tested to the limit by now, Nand
Lal burst out: “But the matter has been with the police for the
last two months and they are all your men.”
meeting Pandher, Gajendra became as soft as all the others who had dealt
with the case before him. “Gajendra started telling me the same
old story, about getting the phone details,” says Nand Lal. And
when he did get the details, they were patently fraudulent. Nand Lal
was shown a call record for the month of June while he was sure the
phone had been switched off on May 7 itself.
Nand Lal approached
SSP Rathore once again. This time, the SSP sent a constable to get a
complaint registered. The Sector 20 so, Deepak Chaturvedi, registered
a complaint — a missing person’s complaint instead of an
FIR as is mandated in such cases. This was on June 29, 2006.
In a Tehelka sting,
Saumitra Yadav — SP (City) for 18 months, now suspended for negligence
of duty — acknowledged the police apathy to Payal’s case.
He recapitulates: “After the complaint was not registered, Nand
Lal went to the SSP. The SSP deputed an SI in his office, OP Sharma,
to look into the matter. The case was then given to Gajendra Singh of
the sog team, who investigated it with Nand Lal. After the investigation,
Singh concluded that an FIR should be registered. But instead of an
FIR, a missing person’s case was registered on June 29 in the
Sector 20 police station.”
the FIR was lodged, CO Dinesh Yadav called me to his office.
My son and daughter-in-law were also picked up and thrashed in Pandher’s
Nand Lal met Rathore
yet again to complain that a ‘missing’ report does not amount
to an FIR but the only words the district’s senior-most police
officer had for the distraught father were: “Once the call details
are out, everything will be clear.” Rathore’s subordinates
had already shown Nand Lal fake records, and none of them had made any
effort to secure the actual phone records, for which Nand Lal had to
knock on the doors of a consumer court.
In the meantime,
Nand Lal had also met a sub inspector called Vinod Pandey, the Nithari
chowki in-charge from July 21 to August 27, 2006. At 11 o’clock
one night, he called Nand Lal to the chowki and told him he had arrested
Koli. “He assured me he would solve the case that day itself,”
says Nand Lal. “Then he got a call from so Chaturvedi. He went
to meet him, and after he returned half-an-hour later, he let Koli go.”
Nand Lal protested. All Pandey had to say was: “We will catch
both of them together.”
Nand Lal had been
driven almost to despair, but his tenacity did not allow him to give
up. He wrote to the President, the prime minister, the chief justice
of India, the chief minister, the human rights commission and to high-ups
in the state police and administration. He also took the matter to court.
As he later said, the thought that kept him going was: “I have
lost my child. I will fight so long as I am alive.”
BUT UNRELENTING: NAND LAL (RIGHT)
BY THE POLICE: (LEFT) PRAKASH, PAYAL’S BROTHER,
AND HIS WIFE PRIYA
The matter was taken
up at the court of the district chief judicial magistrate (CJM). The
court sought a clarification from the police. The then chowki in-charge,
Sati Chauhan, went on record to oppose the registration of an FIR, on
the grounds that Payal had eloped. In her report, she quoted Nand Lal’s
neighbour and landlord to corroborate her claim, but when contacted
by Tehelka, they said no one from the police had ever come to them for
But Nand Lal’s
perseverance finally paid off when the CJM directed the police to register
an FIR on September 27. It still took the cops 10 days to follow the
directive, and the FIR was registered only on October 7. In the meantime,
Pandher had approached the sessions court asking for the directive to
be overturned on the plea that Nand Lal had been blackmailing him.
Why did the police sit still for 10 days? Why were they dragging their
feet on a CJM directive , risking the court’s ire? The answer:
Pandher’s nexus was at work once again, with the cops were in
spycam caught the sordid truth. Sub Inspector Vinod Pandey, unaware
that he was being recorded, said: “SK Sharma paid money on Pandher’s
behalf… Simranjeet Kaur (the Nithari chowki in-charge since November)
was paid two-and-a-half lakhs to cover up the matter.”
Sharma, when contacted
by Tehelka, denied having paid the money but said, “Whatever was
sent was sent directly by Sardarji (Pandher) and his relatives.”
That Pandher had considerable camaraderie with Kaur is evident from
the fact that they called each other 38 times between 17 November and
December 20. Residents of Nithari have also confirmed that Simranjit
was a regular visitor to D-5.
After the courts
forced the FIR, Simranjeet Kaur went with Nand Lal to D-5 for the first
time. Standing outside the bungalow, she said, “What a nice house.
I should be living here.” Nand Lal says, “It was like somebody
rubbing salt into my wounds.” He remembers how indulgently she
spoke to Koli later on, saying: “Beta, tell me. Tell me if Payal
had come here.”
I met SSP Rathore thrice over two months
and begged and pleaded with him. Still, they only lodged a missing
complaint but no FIR
For the first time
in the six months since Payal’s disappearance, Pandher had begun
to feel the pressure, enough to approach the Allahabad High Court for
anticipatory bail. He had the police on his side but was not sure what
the courts would do, now that Nand Lal had managed to get a hearing
The court summoned
Nand Lal and the police to appear on November 13. The summons were faxed
to the Nithari police on November 8, and Tehelka has documents to prove
that Kaur received the fax the same day. But she passed the information
on to Nand Lal only at the last moment, the day before the hearing.
But the father, anxious to get justice for his daughter, travelled overnight
to Allahabad and made it to court on time.
If this is shocking,
read on. Pandher actually paid ac First Class fares for the Noida cops
to make their court appearances. They went to the Allahabad High Court
thrice and Pandher footed the bill each time. Simranjit Kaur went to
Allahabad twice in November, once with a police constable, and then
again with Station Officer SP Singh. She and Dinesh Yadav undertook
another AC First Class journey in early December. All three trips were
made on the Prayag Raj Express, and the travel vouchers for all of them
have been recovered by the CBI from Pandher’s factory.
The police actually
had the gumption to present in court the fake call record they had given
Nand Lal. Public prosecutor Amarjeet Singh took strong exception to
this cover-up and instructed the police to present the relevant call
details. Once that was done, the whole complexion of the case changed.
Pandher’s petition was rejected and the High Court ordered that
the case be investigated by dsp Dinesh Yadav.
But who was to
tell the court that Dinesh Yadav was completely on Pandher’s side?
Late one night, soon after he took charge of the case in mid-December,
he summoned Nand Lal, and later his son Prakash and daughter-in-law
Priya as well, and beat them up at the Sector 20 police station. Pandher
and Koli were present at the time. In Nand Lal’s account, he says:
“I tried to explain the entire case to Dinesh Yadav. Pandher was
also there. He said it was all a lie, that the girl (Payal) was blackmailing
him for money. This was his statement to the police.
Then Priya, and
Prakash were summoned and thrashed. Dinesh Yadav, Pandey and Kaur slapped
Priya. They told us we were all trying to defame a good man and that
we ourselves were the culprits.” Pandher’s police collaborators
forced Nand Lal to say his daughter was a call girl, and recorded him
words on a mobile phone.
Nand Lal says that
after Dinesh Yadav left, those remaining told Koli to cook them a big
meal and they all went to D-5 together. Nand Lal and his family were
sent back home at four in the morning. Prakash, Priya and Nand Lal’s
younger son Amit left for their village within an hour of their return,
and Nand Lal went into hiding.
In the third week
of December, Simranjit Kaur went to Nand Lal’s village in Uttarakhand.
There, she tried to convince the entire village that Payal was actually
alive and had eloped to Mumbai. She told the village head Nand Lal was
trying to blackmail Pandher for Rs 20-25 lakh. Villagers confirmed not
just this but another stunning piece of information: Simranjit Kaur
travelled to the village in Pandher’s company car, a Bolero with
a jcb nameplate on it. Pandher, as is well known, was a jcb distributor,
dealing with earth crushers and bulldozers.
seems to have shamed the Noida police. Not even the sacks of skeletal
remains that the CBI dredged out of the drain behind D-5. When asked
why the police had failed to find those sacks, SSP Rathore said, “We
had a law and order situation on our hands. Besides, we were busy with
What the police
was in fact busy with is quite another story. They had moved by then
into cover-up mode — and they still are. Consider the following
> The Noida
Police did not produce Nand Lal in front of the two-member high-level
committee that conducted an inquiry into the role of the district police.
> One day before
the committee arrived on January 1, 2007, Dinesh Yadav called Mulayam
Singh Yadav’s brother Shivpal Singh Yadav thrice. Why would a
dsp call the cm’s brother?
> Despite finding
Dinesh Yadav guilty on several counts, including the non-registeration
of an FIR, the committee only recommended minor punishment. Is it because
of the Yadav connection?
> Parents of
missing children have confirmed that they had been tutored by Dinesh
Yadav to not name him and SSP Rathore.
> Even when
the CBI sent for Nand Lal, it was Vinod Pandey, by then a dismissed
officer, who drove him. Why?
The entire truth
behind the Nithari killings is still to unfold. Nand Lal has pointed
to many of its sickening facets. It stinks of money and powerful connections.
by Prawal Srivastava