Dancing in the dark

She had little in her life but love for music. So, every chance she got, the 19-yr-old danced. Till one September night...

Written by Ishita Mishra | Published:October 9, 2016 1:25 am
kavita-family-759 Sharda with her son Jitendra. She says she can’t believe Sonu, the second of her sons, could have killed Kavita. Express Photo by Ishita Mishra

SHE was 19, a school dropout after failing Class X, and suffered from tuberculosis. With her family of nine, she shared two rooms, three cots, and one mobile phone that hardly ever worked as they had no money for a top-up. The only thing that kept her going was dance. “Dance makes me feel as if I am in heaven,” Kavita told her mother once.

On the night of September 6, police say, it also led to her death.

Kavita’s elder brother Sonu was arrested on September 11 on the charge of strangling her to death, angry over her love for dancing. Police say he has confessed to the murder.

Kavita’s distraught mother Sharda sits among her belongings at their house in Jamrau village, 20 km from Bulandshahr. With her elder daughter married, Kavita was the only girl in the house among five brothers and, according to Sharda, much loved.

Rummaging through Kavita’s possessions, comprising a colourful handbag, some salwar-suits and two pairs of slippers, Sharda realises she has no photograph of her. Wailing, she wishes she had got a family photograph clicked.

Sharda says she can’t believe Sonu, 22, the second of her sons, killed Kavita. “Police beat him for four days… Itna to jaanwar ko bhi maaroge to woh bhi kubool kar lega ki usne khoon kiya hai (If you beat even an animal that much, he will confess to murder).”

However, the “confession” has put doubts in Sharda’s mind as well. “But if he said he killed, maybe he did,” she says uncertainly.

Sharda and her other children have not visited Sonu in jail. Father Dharmaveer went once, to give Sonu clothes and some other things he needed.

Belonging to the OBC Dheemar community, the family doesn’t use a surname. The family largely survives on the

Rs 6,000-Rs 8,000 a month that Dharmaveer and the sons earn doing odd jobs in the farms of Thakurs of the village. The Thakurs and Brahmins make up a majority in Jamrau. The lower castes live in the undeveloped part of the village near a forest.

Dharmaveer and Sharda’s eldest son, Devendra, works in a private firm in Delhi. Suneeta, the second eldest, got married at the age of 18 and now has two children. Sonu was younger to Suneeta. He and younger brother Kalu left studies after Class XII and worked with the father. The two brothers younger to Kavita are studying, in Classes XI and IX.

Sharda isn’t sure what fuelled Kavita’s love for dance. The family doesn’t have a power connection, and doesn’t own a TV set or even a radio where she could have listened to music. “This is the reason she used to dance whenever there was a function in the village or any puja,” says Sharda.

Only once, Kavita asked Dharmaveer for a radio, says the family. He didn’t get her one, and she didn’t ask again.

It’s mostly the upper castes in Jamrau who have TV sets or power. The lower castes are not allowed into their homes.

Says Kavita’s friend and neighbour Vineeta, 17, “She was an ordinary dancer, like all of us. But her craze for dancing was more then anyone else in the village. Be it a bhajan or a Bollywood number, she could dance on any number, anywhere.”

Vineeta’s mother Barkha Devi immediately stops her. “Kahe jhooth bol rahi hai. Tujhse accha nachti thi woh (Why are you lying? She danced better than you).”

Family members admit Sonu would often fight with Kavita over her dancing, calling her “characterless” and claiming it brought “shame” to the family. They dismissed the squabbles as sibling rivalry.

Dharmaveer says whenever Sonu hit Kavita, “we were there to rescue her”. “So the fight never took an ugly turn.”

The parents also say that Sonu was a good student. “He finished his schooling and never failed. God knows what made him do what he did,” Dharmaveer shrugs.

While Sharda too had her reservations about Kavita’s dancing, she says these were linked to her daughter’s health. “Kavita had TB. She had developed a wound on the left side of her neck. Dancing made her happy but she would also get very tired.” Kavita was receiving treatment at the community health centre in Jahangirabad.

On the night of September 6, Kavita danced at a ‘Kua Pooja’ in the neighbourhood, held by a family to mark the birth of a boy. It was when she had gone to the fields to relieve herself — barely five-six families in this village of 300 houses have toilets — that Sonu allegedly strangled her with her own dupatta.

He later joined a village search party in the night to look for Kavita. Her body was found in the fields the next day, and Sonu was arrested a couple of days later.

SP (Rural) Pankaj Pandey says, “During investigation, we got to know there were frequent fights between the siblings. We suspected the brother’s involvement and we arrested him. He confessed and said he was infuriated by his sister’s behaviour.”

Bulandshahr SSP Anees Ahmad Ansari claims “it wasn’t just dance”. “The accused said his sister had loose character. He claimed to have seen her with men.”

No one believes this in Jamrau though, including the villagers or her family.

“I never saw her with any man. We have just one mobile in the house which stays switched off most of the time as we hardly have money to put balance in it. How could she talk with other men on phone? Police’s theory is made up,” says Kavita’s younger brother Jitendra, who studies in Class XI.

A neighbour, Sanjay Kashyap, also contests the police claims, saying Kavita was a good girl. “She was like the other girls in our village,” he says.

Gram pradhan Dinesh Kumar, a Thakur, says he doesn’t know much about the case, only that he had heard that the girl “danced everywhere”.

“Hum kam matlab rakhte hain gaon ke us chor walon se (We have little to do with people on that side of the village).”