On Wednesday morning, residents of Mahagun Moderne society in Noida’s Sector 78 woke up to 100-150 people gathered at their gate, pelting stones at the society, ransacking the security guards’ room, and making their way up to flat number 012. At the centre of controversy was the ‘disappearance’ of 26-year-old domestic help Zohra Bibi, who had been in that flat till Tuesday evening.
Between 4 am and 6 am, the crowd outside the society swelled as Bibi’s family was joined by her neighbours and friends, many of whom also work as domestic helps in the area. “We asked security guards to let us enter as she had been missing since 5 pm on Tuesday. We knew she had gone to Mahagun to work, but she never returned home. We feared she was dead,” said Bibi’s brother-in-law Muzaffar.
As security guards stopped the crowd from entering the society, a clash ensued and stones were pelted. The windows in the guards’ room were shattered.
Around 6 am, however, Bibi appeared at the gate, accompanied by security guards. “We asked them to keep her inside till police reach. She was taken to the district hospital by police for a check-up, and then taken to Sector 49 police station, where we lodged a complaint. After that, we took her home,” Muzaffar said.
An FIR under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 342 (wrongful confinement) was registered against two residents of flat number 012 — merchant navy officer Mitul Sethi and his wife Harshu Sethi, a teacher.
“Two versions of the case have come to us; we are trying to ascertain which one is true. Bibi has alleged she was beaten up and confined in the house after being accused of stealing money. But her employers alleged that while she stole from them, they did not confine or assault her,” said Love Kumar, SSP Gautam Buddha Nagar.
In her complaint, Bibi alleged she had not been paid for the last two months. She alleged that around 5 pm, when she was at Sethi’s house, her employers accused her of stealing money. “I don’t remember much of what happened after that. Madam slapped me and beat me, after which I lost consciousness. I was at their house till midnight. Afterwards, I went and hid in the basement because I was scared. The next thing I remember is security guards taking me to the gate,” Bibi told The Indian Express.
However, the couple, who were not available at their home on Wednesday afternoon, issued a statement maintaining that they had confronted their “Bangladeshi maid who does cleaning” over Rs 10,000, which had allegedly been stolen from their house. “We told her we have a video of her stealing money. She accepted and asked us to adjust it in her salary. We refused and said we will report her to the facility as she can do this in 12 other houses in Mahagun too. She insisted that we not inform the facility as she will lose work… When asked to come to the facility, she ran away, which will be captured in the CCTV, too. She left her phone at my home,” the statement read.
The statement also addressed the violence: “They came in groups… entered my house by breaking the door glass. It was terrifying. This concerns our security… and I am afraid about the safety of my family and kid.” The family also claimed they hid in the house and later fled to a relative’s residence.
When Bibi did not return home on Tuesday, her family informed police.
On Wednesday evening, another FIR was registered at the Sector 49 police station under IPC sections 147 (rioting) and 427 (mischief causing damage) based on a complaint filed by Sethi, police said. “The second complaint has alleged that some people barged into their flat and ransacked the house. They also broke windows,” said Parshuram, SHO of Sector 49 police station.