9-year-old Huma’s* evening would often involve playing hide and seek with her two sisters and other friends outside her home in Ghaziabad’s Modinagar. A student in class 4, her family describes her as chanchal (lively) and extremely bright. On the evening of 18 August, at around 7 pm, when the girls were playing as was usual, their neighbor whom they knew as ‘uncle’ came on a bicycle and asked two of them to go on a ride with him. “He said ‘I will first take two of you on a cycle ride, drop you back, and then take the rest of you,” recalled 10-year-old Aarefa*, Huma’s elder sister who was part of the group of girls playing together. The man, 25-year-old Kapil, plopped Huma and one of their friends 6-year-old Hafsa* onto his cycle, promising to bring them back soon.
When a few minutes had passed and there was no sign of Huma and Hafsa’s return, Aarefa ran inside her home crying to her mother. The family decided to inform the police and began a search for the girls with some other villagers.
The police team included about 50 officers from four different police stations of the region.
It wasn’t until 9:30 pm that 6-year-old Hafsa was found near a cremation ground. “She looked terrified, her clothes were torn, and she had bruises all over,” a family member who was part of the search said.
Hafsa told the police that Kapil had latched on to Huma ‘didi’ and was strangulating her. Hafsa managed to run out of the fields and escape from his clutches, but Huma could not.
It wasn’t until 3 am the next morning that the police found Kapil dawdling around in the village itself.
“He initially lied and said he spent the entire day in Meerut, where his father-in-law had died that very day. But after some hours of interrogation by the police, he confessed that he had come back home by early evening. He also confessed to raping and strangling the 9-year-old to death,” Ghaziabad SP (rural) Iraj Raja said.
Her body was found covered in sugarcane leaves. The postmortem report of the deceased 9-year-old accessed by The Quint, states that her “hymen was broken and blood was oozing out.”
'Want To Ask Him Why He Did This To Our Daughter', Says Family in Shock
The 9-year-old's family was struck by grief and trauma over her loss. But they were also in a state of shock and disbelief over the act having been committed by a neighbor— one whose family they have had relations with for generations.
“I knew his grandfather really well, we used to work together in the fields decades ago. Even though I didn’t have anything to do with him (Kapil) personally, there was an implicit trust because of the decades’ old ties with his family,” Huma’s grandfather told The Quint.
"The police took him away. But if I ever meet him, I will ask him why did you do this? What did we ever do to you? I can't make any sense of this," he added.
Kapil’s house is barely a hundred feet away from the 9-year-old's. “She must have seen him passing by often. So there is some sense of familiarity she would have had with him,” her grandmother said.
"If kids this age wouldn't play, what else will they do? And they were playing just a few feet away from our home. There is no way we could have known this would happen," the grandmother added.
Aarefa shared an age gap of just a little over a year with Huma, and so the two were very tightly knit. From going to school together and playing with each other, to sleeping next to one another—there was hardly any hour they would spend apart. “She was my best friend,” Aarefa said.
Meanwhile, Huma’s mother has been nursing her youngest daughter who is just 4 years old and has been down with a high fever. “Nothing makes sense anymore. Huma was with us just a few days ago, and now she is gone forever. I want the man to suffer the exact same way he made my daughter suffer. No one deserves what she had to undergo. She was tortured before being killed ruthlessly,” she said.
“I want my voice to reach the CM (Yogi Adityanath). I want justice. I want him to be given capital punishment,” the mother added. The girls’ father is the only earning-member of the family; he works as a laborer.
Police Deny Communal Crime, Mother of Accused Says 'Wasn't Very Good To His Wife Either'
The family, however, said they didn't think it was a communally-motivated crime. “I don’t know if we can call it a communal crime. It may be...but there is nothing for us to confirm that,” the grandfather said.
The family, the only Muslim household in at least the five-kilometer radius, also said that people from the village have been pouring into their house since the incident to give their condolences and have also stood by them.
As per the 2011 census, Modinagar has only about five per cent Muslims, while over 93 per cent are Hindus.
SP Rural Iraj Raja denied there being any communal motivations.
“The entire village has stood by the family. In fact the prime witnesses against Kapil are also all Hindus,” Ghaziabad SP (rural) Iraj Raja said.
The accused, Kapil, has been charged with IPC sections 363(kidnapping), 376 (rape), 302 (murder) as well as under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) provisions.
Meanwhile, at Kapil’s residence, his frail grandmother Pushpa, in her 80’s said she is ashamed with his behaviour. “He drank a lot that day, and created a mess at our house, vandalising everything. I asked him to not step out in the evening, but he did,” Pushpa said. Kapil was a laborer who worked in the fields, and didn’t earn too well, she said.
Pushpa said that just earlier that day, he had gone to Meerut to drop his wife to her father’s funeral. He returned and began drinking, adding that he “wasn’t very good to his wife” in usual times also.
His neighbor, Monu, said he was part of the village search party that helped the police find the girls, as well as Kapil. “He was a habitual drinker. He would get drunk and turn into a shaitan (monster),” Monu said.
*Names changed to protect identity as per law.