Descent into Hell-I The Noida Child Murders

DR. FATIMA SHAHNAZ presents an in-depth on-the-spot study of suspected multiple crimes involving sex, killing and human organ trafficking operated at inter-State, national or more likely international level from village Nithari in Noida district of U

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DR. FATIMA SHAHNAZ presents an in-depth on-the-spot study of suspected multiple crimes involving sex, killing and human organ trafficking operated at inter-State, national or more likely international level from village Nithari in Noida district of U

Today, on January 3, 2007, my new year was launched with a nightmarish descent into hell, when I drove to a village called Nithari and the house with a sign at the gate that read: Pandher, D-5, Sector 31 in Noida, U.P. It stood in quiet suburbia on the outskirts of Delhi, in an affluent residential neighbourhood typical of the new ‘boomtowns’ of India like Gurgaon, sprinkled with shopping malls, ultra-modern movie houses and ‘Barista’ cafes catering to middleclass urban youth. The house, sandwiched between a glitzy pink villa and a dark, sinister brick house belonging to a doctor, seemed more modest than the other two on the same row. But it was at this killing factory that Moninder Singh and his servant, Surinder Kohli (also known as ‘Satish’) now in police custody, conducted their lethal operations in Satanic secrecy. It was here that 15 skeletal remains were found in gulley bags in a gutter at the back of the house, between Moninder’s home and the slums of Nithari. They were identified by personal items belonging to the victims found in the house, or particles of clothes on the remains, which had been dismembered.

The purpose of my visit between 11.30 a.m. and late afternoon to this crime-scene today was on a fact-finding tour as a human rights activist. I have conducted similar trips to afflicted areas on humanitarian missions in the past.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent notice to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, when reports of alleged sexual abuse and murder of children in Nithari village first emerged. The NHRC stated that media reports point to gross violations of human rights of citizens, specifically children, due to acts of “omissions” by public servants who failed to take timely measures. The NHRC added that the number of body parts and skeletons discovered implies there were more victims than those registered by the officials as missing.

One of the key conclusions after my visit to the slums of Nithari and its child victims was an overwhelming sense of what it was like to live in the ‘belly of the Beast,’ at India’s Ground Zero. Here, the human tragedy of wasted innocent lives, of families devastated, of the poor viscerally robbed of all they had, the love of their children, virtually organic particles of their flesh, unfolded before me like a bad horror movie in slow motion.

Poverty has no religion. Although most of the victims were Hindus, the children of migrant workers who lived at the cutting edge of society (both geographically and economically), penetrating their abysmal world was a humbling experience, one that underlined the commonality of our shared humanity, the two faces of India: the affluent middleclass and the ‘outsiders,’ the refuseniks, the marginalised hidden away like a dirty secret at the seamy edge of our success-story. The slums of Nithari are India’s shame, the dark side of the silver lining of the Indian Dream.

A Prison

In the secluded lane leading to the slum area, Moninder Singh’s and his neighbour, Dr. Naveen Chowdhury’s houses were the last two buildings on the street. Any ongoing activities at the two homes would have utter privacy from the main road and other posh villas, as well as a commanding view directly overlooking the slums. It seems paradoxical that anyone with money would want to live in the close vicinity of slums inhabited by displaced migrants, but that is just one conundrum in a case that may qualify as one of the worst serial killings in modern history.

One interesting detail that instantly struck me on my visit to Nithari is the location of the house itself, not merely its anonymity snuggled in a sidelane off the main road, but its situation at the intersection of three states – Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. The alleged criminal, Moninder Singh, described as an industrialist running a trucking transport company, reportedly owns four homes, one in the capital of his home state, Chandigarh, in Punjab. According to a resident of Sector 31, Moninder Singh rarely visited his house in Noida, D-5, no more than once or twice weekly. His house was then shut down and cared for by his servant, Surinder, who kept visitors at bay. Another significant fact is that Moninder Singh’s house in Noida is also easily accessible on national highways. In retrospect, after the heinous crimes committed in this house, one can conclude that the venue was selected specifically for its convenient accessibility, both from highways, and to the slums of Nithari behind the house, distinctly visible from the upstairs windows and balconies of the villa.

I was reminded of this chilling fact when a local villager who had lost a child in the horror-house told me Moninder Singh would stand and watch the slums from his balconies. The image that flashed in my mind was of a vulture swooping down on his prey. Indeed, during my fact-finding mission, I scoured the alleyways of the Nithari slums on foot, gazing up at the roof-top terrace and balconies of Moninder’s white house: All the first-floor balconies were barred with thick metal bars of the type used in jails. While many houses had them to prevent burglars from breaking into a house, the eerie feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw the thick barred balconies of Moninder’s home was that the bars were there to keep people in! This was clearly a prison, a halfway-house where hostages were restrained. It was chilling to imagine Moninder standing staring down at the slums like the unshaven, predatory monster he was, ghoulishly selecting his victims among the poor children who played under a huge white water-tank towering over the slums. It was here that his servant, Surender, would lure kids back to Moninder’s house with ‘toffee’ or candy. These are facts reported by most eye-witnesses.

What shocked me was something most visitors to D-5 seem to have overlooked. When I got a chance later that morning to enter the house of the ‘damned’ to make my own investigation, I came across a tiny white envelope on a table containing passport-size photographs. The photos were of small children, different ones, and a couple of young girls with ‘bindis’ on their foreheads. There must have been a batch of these photos, between ten to a dozen, perhaps more. As I was watched by a policeman, I could not go through them in more detail; but now, in hindsight, I realize that there may have been a systematic, premeditated MO (modus operandi) behind the murders, which puts Moninder Singh’s “watching” the slums from his balcony (as villagers reported to me) in a whole different perspective: I believe he may have been photographing his victims, the children selected for the “kill” and with these photographs his accomplice, Surender, would hunt out the children playing under the water-tank. The sinister photographs could have served another purpose, too, as passport photographs are placed on identity cards. The photos could have been shown to ‘third’ parties interested in ‘buying’ these children, or ‘collaborating’ with Moninder if a paedophile or human-trafficking racket is involved.

It was my gut-feeling from the moment this affair broke out that this is, indeed, a far wider conspiracy involving more than one criminal, as human trafficking usually does. Also, the forensic doctors at a Noida hospital who examined the children’s remains since they were discovered at Moninder’s house have now confirmed that the bodies were skilfully, surgically and professionally cut up. There had to be clinical experts who dismembered them since no bones were broken or cut. The possibility of organ harvesting, which was my conclusion from the first day, was also confirmed by the forensic scientists.

From his appearance on television at his arrest and in photographs, Moninder Singh’s burly frame and hawk-like nose, along with a general look of disorientation, conveys a predatory individual who could be either a paedophile who molested young children, or worse: A cold-blooded operative in a criminal network whose mercenary greed and twisted pathologies led him to commit the crimes of which he stands accused: The disappearances and murders of almost 40 young boys and girls range from the ages of three to 30, although the Noida police succeeded in digging up and identifying merely 15 brutally dismembered carcasses, only five of which had torsos attached to limbs.

The Consumer Society

Nothing had prepared me for this nightmarish journey into the human inferno in the village of Nithari, in an upscale residential neighbourhood of Noida. I document my discoveries first-hand, because the horrors I witnessed are beyond anything the human imagination can visualise, or civilized morality rationalise. The searing images that came to mind, as I stared up at that vast water-tank where the predators awaited to lure the children to the haunted house (where inevitable doom awaited them), were the smokestacks of Auschwitz or Buchenwald.

The same ominous cloud that hovered over the Nazi death-camps where Jews went to the gas-chambers seemed to loom over my head. Here in Nithari, death was palpable; you could smell it, almost reach out and touch it in the toxic ether around you. Even now, as the evil duo, Moninder and Surender, are shunted off to Gandhinagar to undergo narco-analysis and lie-detector tests, questions haunt my nightmares: how was the flesh removed off bones, as clinically as the forensic doctors said? Were the bodies cannibalised? Was incineration, a human furnace of burned bodies, involved? These are the kinds of over-reactions resulting from not-knowing, from speculation and blind ignorance. Will we ever know what happened to those children in their last moments of agony?

The very carnal physique of the two criminals spells out something so warped and devious it could be anything, from cannibalism to sadistic torture. And it is this very kind of speculation that haunts the relatives of the victims, the parents, fathers, mothers, husbands, of Nithari village who crave closure and need answers to end their own living anguish.

The egregious point about these mass-murders in Noida was that they were in our own backyard; and the children decimated by the killers were Indian children, the future of this country (even though these were far from the educated elites of the nation). Of course, this is precisely why they were picked, because they were defenceless, thus expendable. The question uppermost in my mind, as India becomes a ‘service’ nation catering to the sophisticated consumerist needs of the West, is whether the vast population itself is being ‘outsourced,’ on the auction-block, in the age of ‘freemarket economics’ and globalisation? If the Nithari killings disclose political ramifications at higher levels, one can ask if we are becoming an industry of death by sacrificing our displaced, our voiceless minorities to feed our growing consumerism?

Sex, Lies and Superstition

There seems only one way to say it like it is, to take others on this bloody journey that has bloomed into a full-scale political embarrassment for governments, exposing the fraud of the BJP’s ‘India Shining,’ or the current UPA’s ‘India Rising.’ For the Uttar Pradesh government of Chief Minister Malayam Singh Yadav, a scandal of this dimension prior to assembly elections can turn into a death-blow. Already, the BJP and the Congress are circling over Mulayam like vultures on the kill, hoping to get political mileage out of the scandal as their politicos rush to the crime-scene to be photographed amidst wailing mourners. Mulayam himself has been conspicuously absent, statements leaked from officialdom that ‘superstition’ prevents politicians from visiting Noida, which has traditionally seen their political ‘defeat.’ Such superstition merely fuels suspicion in this ugly affair, not to say a growing sense of the absurdity that enshrouds the case in inconsistencies, even lies and apathy on the part of the authorities. The U.P. government initially rejected the need for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to intervene in the investigation, which has incensed other parties as well as the nation. But later the government issued orders to conduct a CBI probe into the case.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media and television channels are going full throttle on the blood-scent (of both the politicians and the murderers), sometimes confusing the two! The nation is hyper-sensitised to the criminalisation of politics, the political mafia and ‘gunda-bazi’ that accompany it. An elite industrialist involved in a sex-racket (and murder) has all the ingredients of a political nexus, with deep pockets. The Noida police are as much ‘suspects’ in the public eye as the criminals themselves. Each day new facts unfold about Moninder’s shady lifestyle. Moninder reportedly held ‘parties’ at his Sector 31 home when he was in town, with call girls and police officers attending these parties. Such reports make the police’s stalling tactics for two years when missing children were discovered a suspicious cover-up for ‘higher-up’ politicians. The combination of sex, power and money behind the Noida killings is a heady mix. Most of the press underscores the class divide, the Jekyll-Hyde face of Indian prosperity. But the realities are far worse: Behind capitalism and the booming consumer middleclass lurks the shadow of an underworld of mafia and criminal-networks, of cross-border terrorism that is not confined to the usual ‘Muslim militants,’ but another area of the ‘terrorist international,’ the criminal fringe of commodities cartels running the gamut from the drugs-and-guns combines to human trafficking, child pornography and, as the case of the Noida killings could testify, the international organ harvesting racket. Snuff movies might be excluded in this case as there was no film equipment discovered on the premises, nor did I personally see any evidence of movie-making material. (Snuff movies, which film actual murders of children or victims of sadistic sexual abuse, have a large market on the internet and other distributors of pornographic material). Although the Noida police vehemently protested against the possibility of organ harvesting, stating instantly after the scandal broke out in public that this was merely a case of paedophilia and the sexual abuse of children, these assertions seemed unsubstantiated as well as overly rash and hasty.

Ever since the first bodies of children emerged hacked to pieces, bone fragments devoid of torsos, as mentioned before, I suspected that this was not the usual MO of child pornographers or paedophiles. My suspicions, however, do not exclude the possibility of the victims having been sexually abused as well besides the other ‘uses’ for which they were exploited, potentially as human organ donors. The gruesome truth about organ harvesting is that the donor has to be ‘alive,’ with a heartbeat, while his or her organs are extricated. One can only speculate on the horrors to which those children were subjected, if this was their fate. While sex-offenders may murder their victims, the sadistic dismemberment of flesh and bones in Moninder’s murders testified to something else, something grotesque and macabre which also had the detonating potential to implicate other forces and parties. These could infer a mafia or racketeering ring. Where organ harvesting is concerned, even medical facilities such as hospitals or clinics may be involved. We must recall that the individual alleged with the crimes, Moninder Singh, ran a ‘trucking’ or contracting company. This would give him the licence to transport ‘goods,’ even bodies, between states. However, such transport often needs official supervision, which is why connections with ‘authorities’ would be important. A diary with lists of politicians was found in Moninder’s house after his arrest. Now that U.P. has emerged as one of the most “lawless” states in India, corruption, pay-offs and kick-offs would be normal procedure for business transactions. But who would give Moninder and his servant, Surinder, the licence to kill?

Where are the Torsos?

Initially, five headless decayed bodies were exhumed in well-preserved gulley bags from a gutter between the home of Moninder Singh and Nithari’s slum area. Only five bodies were identified; all other body-parts discovered (with no torsos) deepen the mystery: Where are the torsos? There are allegedly 15 skulls and sundry body-parts. Some sources report there are only five skulls. The conflicting information disclosed by the police only adds to the confusion surrounding the exhumed bodies.

Contrary to these findings, the public suspected the body-count verged on 38 to 40 victims. From my own contact with the families of the victims, the slum-dwellers of Nithari whom I met on arrival at the crime-scene, I concluded that there could, indeed, have been over a hundred victims and ‘missing children,’ some from different areas of Delhi or U.P., and even other states. Two families near Moninder’s own home in Chandigarh have declared their daughters were missing from a nearby temple. Could there be a racket of national proportions? And if so, this could indeed include human trafficking without excluding organ harvesting. While some self-proclaimed scientific pundits have emerged to attest that children are not used as organ donors, reports have documented the prices for the trafficking of human body-parts ranging from Rs.13,000 for a child’s skull to Rs. 1,300 for hands.

From my personal insights today, I have no longer any doubt regarding two factors in this heinous case of the child-murders: First, that the murders of children abducted from the slums of Sector 31, Noida, virtually snatched from the arms of their parents in broad daylight, could not have been the work of the two sole accused, the sadistic psychopaths now in police detention, Moninder Singh and his servant, Surinder Kohli. Secondly, from the close proximity of Moninder’s house to the home of Dr. Naveen Chowdhury, his next-door neighbour, it seems obvious that more scrutiny should have been paid to a possible connection between the two houses, or the accused and the doctor. I was even told by some observers I met that there was even an underground tunnel connecting the two houses, but this information, too, was denied by the police. It does seem preposterous, however, that the two closest neighbours, the doctor’s home to the left and the pink bungalow to the right of Moninder’s house, with windows literally overlooking his home, were oblivious to the sinister activities of their two male neighbours.

Eye-witnesses living in the area have even reported a steady stream of visitors to Moninder’s house, a fact not investigated by the police. In normal murder cases, detectives would seize address books, lists, phone records and examine all the criminal’s social and business contacts. It was through one victim’s mobile phone that Surender was finally nabbed, but it took the girl’s father months to pressure the phone company to track down the number. One can also speculate on the reliability of lie-detector tests or the truth-serum given criminals.

When I questioned a police officer on the issue of Moninder’s neighbours, I was told that there had been no evidence at the doctor’s house to corroborate any links. Nor was there any suspicion among the authorities that the criminal network was far broader than previously suspected, or that it could even be cross-border, trans-national, even international, if the organ trade is implicated. The shady nexus between the doctor (whose house is wall-to-wall against the home of Moninder Singh) becomes all the more suspicious when the doctor’s past criminal record is uncovered: In 1998, this doctor was allegedly detained by the police for organ harvesting, then released.

Police Apathy

Another lead that should have been investigated is based on a report by Nandlal, who spoke to me during my visit. His tears still streamed down his face as he recalled his missing 18-year old daughter, Payal. She had been summoned by Moninder to an ‘interview’ at his home for a job as a domestic maid. Following a phone call from Surender on May 6 last year to Nandlal to send Payal the next day, Payal left for Moninder’s house on May 7 at 4 pm from her father’s house in Sector 19, Noida, in a rickshaw. When she failed to return by 6 pm, Nandlal tried contacting her on the cell phone he had lent her. It was switched off. After searching for Payal, Nandlal met the rickshaw puller who told him that he had dropped Payal at Moninder’s home in Sector 31, and later saw her emerging with two men and getting into a car. Who were these men? Why were they not traced as key leads in the case by the police?

When Nandlal went to lodge an FIR at the local police station with the rickshaw puller, the police would only take the complaint after many trips by Nandlal. Also, although he had wished to lodge an FIR of kidnapping, the police allegedly made him say his daughter was “missing”. It was several weeks later, after Nandlal approached the courts, that a proper FIR was made. Then, the goings-on at the house at D-5 get uglier still: Nandlal said that not only did Moninder attempt to prevent him from lodging an FIR, but charged Nandlal with blackmailing him to extort money. He added Moninder also “used money” to suppress the truth, although Nandlal was sure his daughter had been murdered. His disillusionment with the entire administrative system, from the Chief Minister to the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, the Prime Minister and even the National Women’s Commission to whom he went in desperation, was a story I heard from so many of the families with missing children in this crime.

While Nandlal feared being killed in a fake encounter by the police, other men and women brushed off by the police spoke of being insulted, threatened, abused and harassed by them. According to eye-witness accounts, there were many comings and goings by maids at Moninder’s house, many of these girls ‘disappearing.’

Another man told me an identical story about his daughter, who had worked in the gruesome villa as a part-time maid for two to three hours daily. She had stopped working two months prior to the delivery of her child, after which she was asked by Moninder to resume her work at his home. She left for work one morning, and never returned. Her husband told me this clutching a torn shred of fabric in his hands, which he had recognised as part of the shalwar suit his wife had worn the day she left; it was found among the skeletal remains on Moninder’s property.

Since the case broke out just before new year’s eve, six policemen have been dismissed by the Uttar Pradesh Government, and three more, including the then SSP of Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida) Piyush Mordia, placed under suspension; but it seems that these are mainly lower-level policemen while their commanding officers remain in office. The Central Government has now constituted a high-level committee with a four-member panel to investigate the murders. Its representatives are from the Ministries of Home Affairs and Women and Child Development (WCD), and the Uttar Pradesh Government. The panel’s objectives are to examine the administration’s efforts to trace the missing children, appraise assistance provided the affected families and as a ‘preventive’ measure against such incidents in the future by studying the modus operandi and motives of the felons.

Renuka Chowdhury, Minister of State for Women and Child Development (Independent charge) stated the enquiry was not made to blame any Government, but to examine the failures of the police and administration in responding to the events. The panel will be chaired by Manjula Krishnan, Joint Secretary WCD Ministry, and the panel comprises V.N. Gaur, Joint Secretary (Police), Union Home Ministry; Balvinder Kumar, Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development U.P. and J.S. Kochher, Director, WCD Ministry. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has also demanded a status report from the State Government. A letter from the NCW chairperson, Girija Vyas to Mulayam Singh Yadav stressed the Commission’s one-member inquiry committee report of August 2005 when half a dozen girls had already gone missing. That enquiry, conducted by Nirmala Venkatesh, and its report had been sent to the State Government.

D-5, Sector 31

Allegations against the U.P. police force and their apathy for two years, since the first missing children were reported, grow murkier by the hour. However, I was lucky enough to get special permission from a polite police officer to visit the house at D-5 after telling him I was a human rights activist. I managed to slip in with a group of visiting BJP officials and entered the house. A BJP minister of U.P., Vinay Katyar, and Ashok Pradhan, an MP, were leading this group. At the entrance to the house, there seemed some confusion as the police asked the VIPs to leave behind some of their heavily armed guards. The politicians exchanged polite greetings with me, but when we reached the first floor, I was stopped by both the police and officials from stepping out onto the first floor terrace which, I noticed through an open door, directly adjoined the doctor’s house next door through a single wall. Visibly, the men did not want me seeing something on that terrace. After peering in through an open door, I concluded that there could easily have been a passage between the two houses from the roof-top. Were there secret ways to communicate between the two buildings? Why were the police and politicians restraining me from inspecting the terrace? Some rumours in the throng on the street outside the cordoned-off lane to Moninder’s home at D-5 reported that people had seen bloodstains in the building. Were there any on the terrace outside? I personally saw no bloodstains anywhere inside the part of the house we were allowed to see, which included two bedrooms on the ground floor, a bathroom on the first floor and a drawing cum dining room at the entrance to the house. But every room had been ransacked in such a way, with shattered glass and toppled furniture, that evidence could have been destroyed or obscured. The same sort of obstruction and mixed signals emerged daily regarding the exact number of dead bodies exhumed, as the body-count changed or seemed to remain almost deliberately vague. From this angle, one can ask who ran the investigation, and why clear-cut press releases by the police department were not issued. My own conclusion on the case is that nobody was in charge here, thus obscuring the case further, and allowed critical evidence to be tampered with. Also, the two-week time-frame given the Government commission to submit a report to be made public seems absurdly brief, if one takes into consideration that there is far more to this case than meets the eye. There are years of missing victims involved. Forensics experts believe the remains they examined had been dead from three months to three years, precisely the time Moninder Singh bought his house in Noida. There may even be implications of a nationwide ‘nexus’ of the criminal fringe. So far, nothing seems to add up as news snippets are released in disjointed bits, leaving one to put them together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. No authorities provide cohesive clues, or even a determined effort so far to get to the bottom of a mass-murder so huge, so scurrilous and sordid, that it should, indeed, mobilise authorities in a massive national-scale campaign. The slow investigation and haphazard efforts by the U.P. administration lead one to wonder if people are afraid to find out where the search might lead, to whose doorsteps, and how wide the conspiracy may be.

White Collar Criminals

My personal conclusions only confirm the ugly under-belly festering behind India’s glitzy image of affluence and prosperity: After the ‘Mahajan culture’ (as it has been named) revealed the sleazy underpinnings behind big money and politics, the drugs and criminal fringe behind the consumer society surfaced. Pramod Mahajan’s son, Rahul, almost died allegedly after a drug overdose (after Pramod himself was murdered by his own brother). Questions arise regarding the crimes of the affluent, or ‘white-collar criminals.’ These are middleclass felons, not crazed radicals from a ‘lunatic fringe’ of the socially disaffected. Another feature of rabid modernisation is the parallel culture of violence that is developing as moral value systems break down. A key feature of India’s new affluence lies in the huge influx of drugs and black money, fuelling corruption at all levels of the state machinery and civil society. In the case of Moninder Singh and his ‘accomplices’ (whoever they may be), the mass-murder at Noida is, indeed, a case of ‘white-collar crime’ as the mastermind, Moninder, whose home was the execution-chamber where poor children were hacked to pieces and their bodies dispersed in a sewage ditch, was a graduate from elite Indian schools like Delhi’s St. Stephen’s College. However, nothing confirms that Moninder was, indeed, a ‘mastermind’ in this affair; he may have merely been a small-time ‘operative,’ perhaps a ‘middleman’ or salesman, if a larger conspiracy is uncovered. He may even have been a ‘butcher’ disposing of the children’s bodies. Also, from evidence viewed during my own visit to the murderer’s home earlier today, and from reports in the media, Moninder Singh was highly informed and literate. This fact alone should send signals of ‘connections’ with external forces, even international ones, since these would prefer to hire or collaborate with an intelligent and powerful man, not a villager, to carry out their operations. The man would have to speak their language, and have a wide network of powerful connections.

A Cold-Blooded Killer

I personally saw the book on psychology, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman in Moninder’s bedroom. Media reporters yesterday cited another book, Dr. Brian Weiss’s Many Lives, Many Masters spotted in his home. My analysis of the accused’s reading tastes indicates the psychopathic mind of a cold-blooded killer, perhaps with a dual personality or a schizophrenic tormented by his own crimes. The reason for this conclusion is in studying the content of both these books. Emotional Intelligence, a bestseller among clinical psychologists, has addressed issues relating to behavioural science. One of the questions addressed, which interests me in the particular case of Moninder Singh, a serial killer, relates to hunters and hunting. The issue raised by Goleman is why a hunter stops hunting. Another question concerns the psychological significance when a character saves a bully’s life. Emotional Intelligence components apply to knowing one’s own emotions, recognising these in others, handling relationships and managing emotions. Moninder Singh reportedly has a bad history of alcoholism, which increased after he fell into ‘bad company’ according to accounts by his own former friends at St. Stephens, and evidenced by his estrangement from his wife. After his arrest, he himself allegedly confessed that he suffered from depression, and his voracious appetite for sex soothed this problem, explaining why he molested children, or had an endless supply of call-girls provided by his servant, Surinder. Moninder sent his only son away to study in Canada. He ostensibly enjoyed an affluent life. A maid who worked for him in the house where the murders took place, now being interrogated in police custody, has confessed to owning two homes and some lucrative business, which cannot be justified by her domestic worker’s salary of Rs.2,500.

The other book witnessed by journalists who visited the house at D-5, Sector 31, was Dr. Brian Weiss’s Many Lives, Many Masters. This book perhaps gives even more clues into the psychotic mind of Moninder Singh than Emotional Intelligence. The work focuses on past-life therapy, or reincarnation. Dr. Weiss inspects the spiritual unconscious of his patients, stressing the influence of past-life therapy on a person’s present behaviour. In brief, such rationalisms provide a dangerous way of absolving a person of moral responsibility for his or her actions. Dr. Weiss believes that regression to past lifetimes provides a breakthrough necessary to healing the mind, body and soul. Was Moninder Singh a tormented psychopath soul-searching for a way out of his heinous crimes? It is public knowledge that mass-murderers in American jails walk around holding Bibles, visibly atoning for their past sins. In no way does this, however, affirm that they will not commit crimes again once they are released. All that this soul-searching confirms is that the psychopathic mind may be the dual personality of the schizophrenic. The criminal may even break down, confess, and seek to be pardoned on grounds of mental instability. Some sociopathic killers are highly rational people, who can brilliantly justify their manic actions.

Ironically, it was the excuse of ‘mental instability’ with which the police first labelled Moninder Singh’s servant, Surinder, when he was finally caught through the mobile phone that belonged to Payal’s father, Nandlal. Another father, Mohd. Shah Alam of Okhla, told a similar story of the police reaction at his son Mohd. Shameem’s disappearance from Noida’s Sector 9, on April 24, 2006. When Shah Alam reported his son’s disappearance to the police, one man was detained for questioning but later, the father saw the police walking out laughing with the alleged criminal. The police said the man was ‘mentally unstable,’ just as they had when Moninder Singh’s servant was first suspected. Mohd. Shah Alam said another boy disappeared at the same place in Noida in approximately the same time period.

(to be continued)