By Amrit Dhillon in New Delhi, Sunday Telegraph, 8/01/2007
Indian police fear that as many as 38 children and young women may have been killed by a rich businessman and his servant accomplice in a two-year orgy of sexual abuse and murder in a leafy suburb of New Delhi.
A week after the killings in Noida came to light, the parents of the victims are directing their rage at police who, they claim, were indifferent to reports of missing persons.
As children started disappearing with alarming frequency in Nithari village, 100 yards away from the businessman's house, their relatives urged the police to investigate. Officers paid no attention, refusing even to register the missing person reports.
Since December 29, the police have recovered 17 bodies from a drain near the house where Moninder Singh Pandher, a public school-educated businessman, lived with his servant, Surender Kohli.
The victims — impoverished children and women allegedly lured to the house by Kohli with the promise of sweets or a job — were dumped in the drain after being sexually assaulted and killed.
The final figure could be much higher, as 38 people are missing from Nithari village. "Most of the bones recovered from the drain do not match the skulls that were found, so the final tally could be much higher," said Dr Vinod Kumar, Noida's chief medical superintendent.
A rickshaw driver who saw the room where the victims were apparently dismembered told a television channel that "it looked like an operating theatre, full of blood and knives of all kinds".
The victims' families – migrants who work as drivers, cooks and maids in the homes of the rich in Noida – are furious at the way they were treated by Noida police. "They didn't take our complaints seriously because we're poor," said Samir Sarkar, whose 18-year-old daughter has been identified as a victim.
The murders and police inaction have appalled the nation. On Wednesday, six police officers were sacked for failing to make any effort to trace the missing people.
Pandher and Kohli have been taken to a forensic science laboratory in western India where they will be given a "truth serum". The use of such drugs – which are meant to render suspects incapable of lying – is banned in many countries but is permitted in India.
Kohli, according to the police, is mentally ill and has confessed to sexually abusing and killing 10 children and five young women.
Pandher is harder to fathom. He comes from an influential family in Punjab and his friends are stunned at his alleged transformation from a suburban businessman into a mass murderer.
Known to friends as "Goldy", he has been described by schoolfriends as "cheerful and jovial". Estranged from his wife, he lived alone, with only Kohli in the house.
The murders highlight a broader problem largely ignored by the government.
A 2004 report by the National Human Rights Commission said that 45,000 children go missing every year in India. They are rarely traced – because the police make no effort to find them.