Delhi Boy Murdered: Family Insists It's Communal, Friends ‘Unsure’

23-year-old Sahil died after he was beaten by at least two men over using a lane in north-east Delhi.

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India
5 min read
23-year-old Sahil died after he was beaten by at least two men over using a lane in north-east Delhi.
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Days after 23-year-old Sahil, a first-year college student, lost his life after being beaten in north Delhi's Jafrabad, reportedly because of a dispute over using a lane, his family has claimed that he was killed as the accused mistook him "to be a Muslim".

The police, however, say the incident is not communal, and have arrested two on the charge of murder.

On the one hand, Sahil's mother, Sangeeta, said that he had gone to help his friend's brother, who had reportedly got into a scuffle with someone named Sanjay Chandrabhan and his minor son, late on Friday, 30 August.

Women mourn Sahil’s death at his residence in Maujpur, Delhi.
Women mourn Sahil’s death at his residence in Maujpur, Delhi.
Anthony Rozario/The Quint)
The Quint went on-ground and spoke to Sahil’s friends as well as the residents of the lane where the accident occurred, to probe the communal angle in the case.

Sahil’s Parents Say, 'They Thought He Was Muslim'

Sahil’s father claims the fight began when his son, along with his friends, were returning from a birthday party. He said they were stopped by Chandrabhan and his son. Singh said Chandrabhan was drunk and had asked the boys why they were "passing through a lane inhabited by pandits." He further claimed that the attackers snatched the keys of Sahil’s bike.

Sangeeta has a different story. She claims Sahil had pleaded with Chandrabhan to let his friend’s brother off after they entered into a scuffle. He also promised to not use their lane in the future. However, his pleas fell on deaf ears and he ended up being mercilessly thrashed.

Sahil’s parents both claim that he was brutally beaten as his attackers thought him to be Muslim.
“After Chandrabhan took away the keys, Sahil’s friend took his name, while asking him to come back the next day. Hearing his name, the attackers thought he was Muslim and beat him mercilessly. Sahil was also wearing a locket that he had got from the Ajmer Dargah.”
Sunil Singh, Sahil’s Father
<b>Sahil’s father claims that his son was killed as the attackers had mistaken him to be a Muslim.</b>
Sahil’s father claims that his son was killed as the attackers had mistaken him to be a Muslim.
(Photo Courtesy: Anthony Rozario/The Quint)

When asked about the communal angle, Singh said the “entire lane is saying that a Muslim has been killed.” He stated that he is sure the attackers of the 'panditon waali gali' had beaten Sahil because they had mistaken him to be Muslim.

Mother Regrets Naming Son 'Sahil'

After the ordeal, Sahil had walked up to his family's third-floor residence and narrated the incident to his parents. "He said that he was not at fault and was only trying to solve a dispute," said Sangeeta, recalling Sahil's final moments.

He fell unconscious on her lap and, upon being taken to the hospital, was declared "brought dead".

Sahil passed away in his mother’s lap.
Sahil passed away in his mother’s lap.
(Photo: The Quint)

“I didn’t realise that he had passed away in my lap. I wouldn’t have named him Sahil had I known that it would turn out to be the cause of his death,” she said, her voice cracking.

‘He Complained of Body Pain,’ Sahil’s Friends

The Quint met Sahil’s friends who were present at the scene of crime.

At around 9 pm on Friday, Sahil's friends Vicky and Yogesh were passing through Lane Number 5 near Anand Park on their motorbike when they were stopped by Sanjay Chandrabhan and his son.

According to them, Chandrabhan asked them why they were passing through a “lane inhabited by pandits.

“He seemed drunk. Despite us apologising to him he slapped us and began to beat us up.”
Yogesh, Sahil’s Friend
<b>Yogesh and his friend were allegedly slapped by Chandrabhan.</b>
Yogesh and his friend were allegedly slapped by Chandrabhan.
Anthony Rozario/The Quint)

The news of the two being beaten up reached Abhishek, who was attending a birthday party with Sahil. 22-year-old Abhishek claims that when he and Sahil reached Lane Number 5, a crowd had already gathered at the spot.

Abhishek recalls how he and his friends were thrashed by Chandrabhan, who he also thought was drunk. While he, along with the others, managed to escape, "Sahil was left behind as he had fallen down. He was then beaten with sticks. We waited for him near a corner and dropped him home, but only after he was thrashed. On the way, he complained of body pain,” Abhishek said.

When asked if Chandrabhan or anyone else had mentioned the word ‘Muslim’ while attacking the group, neither Abhishek nor his friends could confirm if they had heard any such communal utterance.
<b>Abhishek feels that Chandrabhan thought Sahil was a Muslim.</b>
Abhishek feels that Chandrabhan thought Sahil was a Muslim.
Anthony Rozario/The Quint)

However, they suspect that since they had called Sahil by his name, Chandrabhan could have mistaken him to be Muslim. When asked if other eye-witnesses had spoken to them about the ‘Muslim’ angle, none of Sahil’s friends offered a definitive answer.

Lane Number 5: Where it All Happened

At Lane Number 5 of Maujpur, The Quint spoke to four people who, based on chatter, said they couldn’t confirm a communal hand behind Sahil’s death. Jeetu, who stays right next to the spot where Sahil and friends were thrashed, confirmed that Chandrabhan was drunk and a fight had broken out. However, he had not heard anything specific about Sahil’s religious identity, Muslim or otherwise.

<b>Lane Number 5, where Sahil and friends were beaten.</b>
Lane Number 5, where Sahil and friends were beaten.
Anthony Rozario/The Quint)

Gulshan Singh, who says he was not home during the incident, said the fight happened because Sahil was speeding through the lane. When asked about the Muslim bent, Singh claimed “It was a fight over right of way. Everybody knew that the boys were Hindus.”

'Case of Road Rage': Delhi Police

However, AK Thakur, DCP (North-East) told The Quint that the argument had broken out over the use of a lane and no communal angle can be discerned thus far.

“They were passing through the area and had an argument on the spot over using the lane, following which he was killed. So far, we have no evidence that could indicate the incident was communal.”
AK Thakur, DCP (North-East)

Sources in the Delhi Police also told The Quint that Sahil had gone to resolve a dispute which had erupted between his friends and Chandrabhan, who was inebriated.

“This is a case of road rage. Sahil’s friends were passing through the lane and had brushed past Chandrabhan. When Sahil went to the spot, he was attacked and his friends fled the spot,” sources said.

So far, the police have arrested Chandrabhan and a minor in connection with the incident and charged them under Section 302 (Murder).

Sahil's cause of death is yet to be ascertained and his autopsy reports are awaited.

(This copy has been updated on 4 September to reflect the views of Sahil’s friends and of those residing where the attack took place.)

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