A week after Sakshi was slaughtered on camera by 20-year-old Mohammad Sahil, the memory of her bloodied body with a ruptured face has been haunting Ranjana Devi, the mother of the 16-year-old.
“My baby girl was so ambitious. People like us (labourers) don’t dream big because we accept our reality. But she was different. She wanted to become an advocate,” Devi said, at her jhuggi in Shahbad Dairy.
Both of Sakshi’s parents are daily wage labourers and are migrants from Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad district.
‘No one came for her’
“Why?” wonders Sakshi’s family.
“Why didn’t anyone come to help her. At least 10 people passed by, yet no one stopped the man from stabbing her. Maybe she would have died of injuries any way, but at least people could have tried. How did these people sleep that night knowing that they let a poor young girl get murdered publicly? How did they wake up with no conscience,” Devi whimpered.
A viral clip of the brutal incident showed a dozen passers-by walking past Sakshi as she was being stabbed by the accused over 20 times and stoned to death. Only one person intervened and attempted to stop Sahil. However, he was overpowered and left the spot. Few passers-by even turned back to take another glimpse of the horrific incident.
Sakshi was on her way to buy a birthday present for her friend Neetu’s son when she was attacked in Jai Bhagwan ji area by Sahil, who she had recently broken up with. The accused kept on stabbing her with a dagger and kicking her until she fell on the ground and then bludgeoned her face with a cement slab. He left but returned to stone her body again. All this while, no one stopped him.
Reeling from the shock, Sakshi’s cousin said that it is ‘unimaginable’ that not a single person came to help her.
“Jab bhandara lagta hai, tab sab jhund banake khare ho jaate hai, kisiko bulana bhi nahi padhta, aur itni badi ghatna aankho ke saamne ho rahi hai, kisiko farak tak nahi para? Kis tarah ke log hai yeh? Woh toh akela tha, aur wahan itne log the. (People gather in numbers when there is free food being provided in the streets. They reach uninvited, but when a crime like this is being committed in front of their eyes, no one cared to intervene? No one batted an eye? What kind of people are they? He (the accused) was alone, but there were so many people out there,” her kin said.
The 17-year-old lives in the same neighbourhood as Sakshi’s parents.
While the neighbourhood where Sakshi lived consists of houses that are mostly jhuggis with dwellers mainly doing daily-wage labour work, the area where she was killed had more well-built houses.
When Patriot visited the crime spot and enquired about why there was zero intervention from the locals in the area, the response was largely indifferent. Most of the residents did not want to speak.
“Everyone wants to save themselves and not get involved with the police. Besides, he (Sahil) was a known face here and always roamed around with 20 other men and harassed people here. So, we knew him as a nuisance,” said a local shopkeeper, Dinesh.
When Patriot enquired about the same, Investigating Officer (Shahbad Dairy police station) Parveen Tomar said that in the police records there have been no such complaints registered against Sahil. “We never received any police complaints against the accused. According to our investigation and the evidence we have, Sahil planned the murder 15-20 days before committing the crime. He bought the knife soon after he decided to kill her,” Tomar said, without divulging more on the evidential details.
As per the police, Sahil is a resident of Prahladpur village, close to Shahbad Dairy, where he lived in a rented house with his family. According to a PTI report, the landlord had said that he never misbehaved with anyone.
During investigation, Sahil has revealed that he killed her “in a fit of rage”.
However, according to the police, he had bought the knife he used to thrust in Sakshi 15 days before the crime.
Since the night of the incident, a pall of gloom has descended on the slum that has been unable to come to terms with the murder of the “sweet girl”.
As for the deceased’s parents, they are still in a state of shock and have been largely bedridden due to grief.
“What do you want us to say? As a mother, how should I feel watching the police collecting my daughter’s dead body? I watched how she was stabbed endlessly and not a single person came for her rescue. You tell me, how should I feel about this,” 28-year-old Devi said.
Her neighbour Poonam said that Devi fainted over five times in four days since her daughter’s murder. During Patriot‘s visit, Sakshi’s father Janak Raj was not in a state to speak and was confined to his room, in the dark.
“Sakshi was excited because most of the time she was at Neetu’s place. Even when she had a fight with us, she used to run to her house and spend the night there. In fact, she was living there for the past 10-15 days. She had bought new clothes and a pair of shoes, which she wanted to wear for her friend’s son’s birthday,” Devi said.
When the dishevelled mother was informed about her daughter and was rushed to the spot, she found Sakshi’s body lying in a pool of blood. She was wearing the new pair of shoes.
A few of the neighbours are fearful of letting their daughters go to the school and step outside the house.
“It’s so horrific that we cannot stop thinking about it. How did a monster like that live in a society and go unnoticed. When incidents like this happen, we rethink girl’s education because for us, their lives matter more. None of us can look at Ranjana Devi’s face today because of the level of the grief. We are heartbroken and shattered,” said Shabnam, who lives three houses away.
‘A sweet girl’
Sakshi was of big help to her neighbours, who referred to her as a “sweet little girl”.
“We never saw her with Sahil here. In fact, she was mostly running errands for her family. She also used to babysit my infant. Whenever Ranjana cooked something nice, she brought that for us. She was always helpful,” said Poonam, her immediate neighbour.
She used to give tuition to a few children and earn around Rs 1,700.
“We bought our groceries with what she earned. She wanted to fix our problems. Usne kaha ke Mummy main wakeel banke teri sari pareshania door kar dungi, dekhna tu (A day before the incident, she came from Neetu’s house to tell me that she will get us out of this dire poverty by becoming a lawyer),” Devi said.
“Main isko (little brother) ko bhi padhaungi, bas mujhe wakeel banne de. (I will also fund my brother’s education, just let me become a lawyer),” she added.
A day after the murder, her 12-year-old brother watched her pyre burn.
Regarding the Rs 10 lakh compensation announced by the Delhi government, Devi said that they have received no money yet.
When Patriot visited Neetu’s house, it was locked from outside.
“She was almost always here with Neetu. They were always playing and giggling. Yeh sab acchhi ladkiyon ko shobha nahi deta. Inko thora apne mein rehna chahiye. Par haan usko bohot berehami se maara hai (It doesn’t befit good girls to do all this. They should keep to themselves, but yes, she was murdered mercilessly),” said Meenu, Neetu’s neighbour.
‘No communal colour’
Calling for the strictest punishment for Sahil, the family of Sakshi said that they would find justice “in the death of their daughter’s murderer”.
“It should be nothing short of death penalty. He should be killed otherwise what if he does the same to another daughter. We have lost our child and we do not wish the same for any other parent,” said Devi.
Speaking about the communal colour given to the crime, Devi said that people in the neighbourhood live with utmost love for each other and there have never been any communal disturbances among them.
“Where is communal colour here? Since the incident, my Muslim neighbours are sending me food because I am unable to move due to the grief. Hum log bohot pyaar se rehte hai. Aur ladkiyan kahan surakshit hain? Kahin nahi! Toh kahan se yeh Hindu-Musalaman ho gaya? (We live well with each other. And where are young girls safe? No where. Then, how did it become a matter of Hindu-Muslim),” Devi asked.
Pointing towards those who passed by Sakshi without helping her, her cousin said, “Jo log wahan side se nikal gaye, kya unmein se sab Musalaman the? Un Hinduon ka kya phir jinhone meri behan ko bachaya nahi? Yahan school mein ladkiyon ko chhedte hai ji. Ladkiyan kahin pe bhi surakshit nahi hai (What about those who passed by without stopping Sahil from killing her, were all of them Muslims? What about those Hindus who didn’t save my sister? Here, girls are eve-teased even in school. No where are they safe.”
Today, Shahbad Dairy has become synonymous with the name ‘Sakshi’ since the ghastly incident of May 28. From autorickshaws to e-vehicles, it’s known as the place “jahaan woh ghatna hui thi” (the place where the incident happened) and while the call for justice and fair trial reverberated among residents, some chose the age-old malicious concept of character assassination and victim-blaming.
Few of the locals who Patriot spoke to at the crime spot near Jai Bhagwan Ji area were irked by the media’s “constant questioning about why no one stopped the murder”.
“Who would want to intervene in a couple’s fight and people were on their way to their own businesses,” said Shikha, a local passing by the crime spot when Patriot visited.
Meanwhile, the house in front of which the young girl was murdered was locked from inside and no one opened the door despite multiple knocks.