Tawi Vihar in Jammu city’s Sidhra area is a quiet, posh neighbourhood home to several high-ranking officials. For the past fortnight though, the colony has been in the news for two neighbouring lanes, No. 32 and 33, where a bizarre saga of suicides and murders is believed to have been enacted over the course of a week.
It was on August 16 evening that six bodies were discovered from two homes in the lanes. Since then, clues regarding how the six died and the web connecting them — bringing together depression, loneliness, medical issues and court cases — have made it one of the most complex crimes handled by the Jammu Police.
One person has been arrested, a plumber, for helping keep the deaths a secret. Police say the drugs used included various Schedule H medicines (sold only on prescription).
Senior Superintendent of Police, Jammu, Chandan Kohli said they recovered four bodies from one house in Lane No. 32 and two from the other lane, following a call from Srinagar by a worried relative of one of the deceased.
When they went to check, they found the bodies of Sakina Begum, 72, her daughters Naseema Bano, 45, and Rubeena Bano, 36, and son Jafer Saleem, 23, and grandson Sajjad Ali, 17, at the house in Lane No. 33, and that of a neighbour, Noor-ul-Habib, 52, in Lane No. 32.
Of them, Naseema and Saleem, differently abled, are believed to have been murdered, as their mental and physical condition meant they could not have given their consent for the suspected suicide pact.
As per the findings of an SIT headed by SP (Rural) Sanjay Sharma, which pored over CCTV footage, call recordings and bank account details, Naseema and Saleem died of a drug overdose on August 12. Sakina died on August 14, and the rest on August 15.
Police believe the planning by the families to end their lives began on August 4. That day Noor appeared in court in connection with a case pertaining to alleged abduction of Sajjad. He took along Sakina and Sajjad to the court to show that the complaint was false, but the matter got adjourned as lawyers were on strike.
Officers say that behind the case, and how two families planned this whole saga together, lay a tale going back more than 25 years.
That was when Sakina, originally from Doda, moved into a rented accommodation in Sidhra along with her husband and four children. Around the same time, in 1995, Noor’s father Habibullah Bhat moved to Sidhra, in the newly developed Tawi Vihar residential colony. In 1997, Sakina started working as a domestic help at Bhat’s house and came to know Noor.
The ties between the families changed after Noor reportedly got involved with Sakina’s divorced daughter Zareefa around 2017. An IT consultant, he had lost his job at a Gurgaon firm and moved back to Sidhra. His parents by then lived in Kashmir.
Sakina also built a house in Sidhra in the course of time, on land that her second daughter Naseema got from her estranged husband. Noor apparently wanted to wed Zareefa, with Sakina’s support, but Zareefa got married to a policeman, Abdul Rehman.
The story took another twist when Zareefa’s son Sajjad, then around 13, left Zareefa’s home to stay with Sakina. Zareefa objected to this, and the two sides started filing police complaints against each other.
In 2019, came the first complaint, with Zareefa accusing Noor and Sakina of kidnapping Sajjad. They filed a counter-complaint accusing Sakina’s second husband Rehman of ill-treating Sajjad. Police registered both the FIRs.
In 2020, Zareefa filed a second complaint against Noor, of molestation. Police said Noor got a stay from the High Court.
Earlier this year, Sakina, Noor and Sajjad together lodged a complaint against Sakina’s husband, saying he was a threat to them.
In June this year, Sajjad was hospitalised following an alleged suicide attempt, and Ahmed was arrested for some days after Sajjad’s statement against him.
Officers said Noor’s family members too objected to the extent of his involvement with Sakina and her children — on one occasion, he threw his visiting father out of the house in anger – and he had cut off all ties with them.
On August 4, while appearing in the abduction case filed by Zareefa, Noor and Sakina seem to have decided that they had had enough.
The next day, they started working on their plan, stocking cannulas, drips and medicines from chemist shops and deactivating the CCTV cameras installed at both houses.
Police have determined that on August 8, Noor rang up a pharmaceutical firm in Gujarat saying the condition of some of his family members at home was not well, sending them video clips of bedridden Nasreen and Saleem. He allegedly sent over Rs 2 lakh for some medicines.
Police, however, have not been able to zero in on the exact supplier. A senior officer said a large number of tablets have been found, without wrappers or bills, and their suspicion is that Noor crushed together a mix of them for use.
A health worker, known to Noor, was then approached by him to fix cannulas on all of them, on the excuse that they had fever and were not well.
A cocktail of medicines was first administered to Saleem and Naseema; police believe this was done to determine the quantity needed to ensure death.
On August 7, Noor called a plumber, Vijay Kumar, and allegedly paid him Rs 2.5 lakh to dig a pit at the backside of Sakina’s house for burial of the bodies of Saleem and Naseema, saying that their condition was critical, police said.
Kumar has reportedly confessed that Noor later told him about their entire plan, of ending their lives. He has been arrested on the charge of not going to police.
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On August 13, according to police, Noor rang up a trader in Jalandhar and cancelled an order for supply of gym equipment at his home, saying members of his family were not well. He told the trader to distribute the money he had paid among the poor.
The next morning, Sakina died. Later in the afternoon, Noor, Rubeena and Sajjad ordered food from Jammu’s famous sweets shop Pahalwan through Zomato, and by August 15 morning, they too were dead.
A senior police officer told The Sunday Express they had found a note apparently written by Sakina saying her movable and immovable property should be donated to an organisation that looks after specially abled children and specifying that nothing should go to Zareefa and her husband.