Ever since Ekta Jaswal (19), a commerce graduate and part-time event manager, left her home in Ludhiana last year to live with her boyfriend, her family said they had been living in an illusion — that she was alive and happy wherever she was. While they would never get a response when they would call or message her, they would be reassured everytime her WhatsApp display picture was updated.
Nearly a year after Uttar Pradesh Police recovered the body of a young ‘unidentified’ woman with the head and hands chopped off, from a field in Meerut on June 14, 2019, the case was finally solved Tuesday.
Six people were arrested, including main accused Aman aka Saqib Khan, a ‘tantrik’ who worked in Ludhiana and allegedly took Ekta with him to Meerut after allegedly promising to marry her.
According to the press statement issued by Meerut Police, Aman alias Shaqib worked as a ‘tantrik’ (practising witchcraft/black magic and selling tabeez) at the shop of one Dilshad, in Ludhiana. He was also learning ‘vashikaran’, said the Meerut police statement. Ekta came in contact with ‘Aman’ via newspaper ad as she consulted him for issues in her job and health. Later, after a monetary dispute with Dilshad, he opened his own ‘tantrik shop’ at Karnal in Haryana.
Meerut SP (City) Akhilesh N Singh said, “Both her (Ekta’s) hands were chopped off from wrists. The head was disposed off in a water body to conceal her identity. Something beginning with ‘A’ was tattooed on one arm, but it was not legible. Later we got to know that it was ‘Aman’ when we connected the dots.”
He further said that it was only in March this year that they zeroed down on some 75,000 mobile phone numbers which were functional near the spot where the body was found. “Of them one was registered in Ludhiana and became non-functional later. The girl had two phones of which Saqib kept using one and deactivated the other. With that one number which became non-operational, we became suspicious that the case is related to Punjab,” said the SP.
He said a team was then rushed to Punjab to locate the address under which the number was registered.
“Finally we managed to get photos of Ekta and Saqib from Ludhiana where we met the girl’s family but even then we weren’t sure if the body was that of their daughter. We circulated and inquired showing those photos in Meerut, it was found that there was no Aman but Saqib who lives here and local people knew him. They knew he had got a girl from Punjab. It was only a few days ago that we informed the girl’s family and pinpointed Saqib and his accomplices after we finally established that the body was that of Ekta. Since her one number was always working, the family wasn’t suspicious,” said the SP.
Meerut police said that Saqib along with his five accomplices including his family members, allegedly murdered the woman a day after Eid last year and buried the body in a field after removing the head and hands. Police said he did this because she was pressuring him to marry her and he was eyeing the 15 tolas gold jewellery she had brought with her.
Saqib, in his twenties, also worked as a ‘tantrik’ in Karnal, Haryana, and wanted to use money after selling her jewellery in his business. He and his accomplices allegedly gave Ekta a sedative-laced soft drink and then murdered her. After dumping her body, they also poured salt on it to make it decompose faster.
Ekta’s family said that initially they had filed a complaint at Jagatpuri police post of Ludhiana but a ‘compromise’ was reached with a promise that Saqib will not trouble her again. “Later when our own daughter chose to go with him, we thought they will be happy together and did not file a complaint after she left,” said her mother Seema Rani.
Pawan Thakur, Ekta’s maternal uncle, said, “Her phone kept working for one year and Saqib kept changing her photos on WhatsApp to mislead us. Whenever we would call, no one would pick up the phone. Initially after she left home in May last year, she would pick our call sometimes whenever she would have her phone or when no one was around.
But her phone used to be with him mostly. But later (apparently after she was murdered), no one would pick her phone. She had two phones, and it was in the first week of June last year that she had last spoken to my wife (Ekta’s aunt).
She refused to return home and said that she is going to lead a happy life with him. We still tried to convince her to return but she did not listen. Festivals, birthdays, every occasion…we would try to contact her but no one would pick up.
Her WhatsApp and Facebook photos and status messages were also updated. We thought at least she is alive…She also took jewellery from her paternal aunt’s place.”
“Why did they kill her? If he did not want to marry her, he should have sent her back to her family,” said Thakur.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Seema Rani, Ekta’s mother from Anand Nagar of Haibowal in Ludhiana, further said they will now never be able to live peacefully knowing how brutally their daughter was murdered.
“This man introduced himself as Aman to my daughter. He worked as a tantrik in front of Ludhiana bus stand. He started brainwashing my daughter. She stopped listening to us. She stopped going to college. She stopped speaking to us. Both started chatting for hours on Facebook and WhatsApp. She said she wanted to marry him. We were never in favour of this marriage and we also never knew that he was Saqib Khan.”
The mother added that in the last week of April, Ekta had gone to her aunt’s (father’s sister’s) home for a family function in Himachal Pradesh. “We later got to know that she also took away all the jewellery from home. I told her to come back home to Ludhiana but she did not return after that day.
From her aunt’s place, she straightaway went to Meerut via Karnal (Haryana) with him on May 5. Since then, we have not spoken to her. It was her 20th birthday on December 10 and then also we called multiple times but no one picked up the phone…,” she said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines