It was more than 12 hours after she breathed her last that 28-year-old Sombir, a Dalit, found out that the woman he loved had been shot dead, with police suspecting that her relatives from the Jat community had orchestrated the crime to punish her for eloping with him.
As his brother, Dinesh, broke the news to him over the phone on Thursday morning, Sombir, who is in prison for allegedly forging the girl’s documents to change her age from 17 to 18, burst into tears.
“He started crying as soon as I told him about what happened, and has since been asking anyone who speaks to him to secure his release. He just keeps repeating, ‘get me out of here, I want to see her one last time’,” Dinesh said.
“But we are worried for his safety. These people have just killed their own daughter, who is to say they won’t do the same to him. We are even concerned for ourselves right now,” Dinesh said, sitting in the family’s home in a village in Rohtak district.
It was here that Sombir, the son of an Army havildar, grew up with his two brothers — the eldest one, the family says, died after a dengue infection two years ago. He attended a private school in the area before he befriended an employee at a finance firm and developed an interest in the sector. Around four years ago, he opened his own office near where the girl lived.
When the two first met, or how their relationship developed, appears to be a mystery to everyone who knew them. The only point at which people know their paths to have intersected was for a few months last year, when Sombir was living in her house as a tenant.
“He told us he stayed there because it was close to his office. He would stay there during the day and come home at night. Whether he stayed there because he was in love with her, or he fell in love with her after he stayed there, we do not know,” said Dinesh.
According to an abduction complaint by the girl’s maternal uncle, Ramesh, when she eloped last year, he had adopted her in 2002 when she was a year old. The girl was found to be a minor — according to police, she turned 18 just over a month back.
It was in a single storey house, to which two floors have since been added, that the girl grew up, with three cousins — two of who are now dead, one of “some illness” and another in a car accident. Her third cousin, who works as a driver, is married and has two children, according to neighbours. The family depends on rent for the twelve rooms that they lease out to migrants from Bihar.
It was around 4 pm, hours after the girl was shot dead by two bike-borne assailants outside the court in Rohtak, that a team of police personnel arrived at the bungalow that was once her home, and piled up her relatives in police vehicles.
While police claim to be questioning some of her relatives, no arrests have been made yet.
“The postmortems of the girl and the police officer who was killed have been conducted today,” said Shamsher Singh, PRO of Rohtak police.
“Sombir told us that he was eloping the evening before they left, but he did not tell us about the caste angle. We only found out about that when her father came with the police the next morning,” said his mother Sujata.
“However, once they were married, there was nothing we could do, and we accepted them. We did not know about her age being wrong until after the police got involved, but my husband has also been arrested for that forgery,” she said.
In the months that passed between the girl being lodged at Nari Niketan, after she refused to return to her family, and her death, Sombir’s family claims to have grown close to her.
“We would talk to her over the phone, share our joys and sorrows. We attended every court date, and would carry anything she wanted, from clothes to other things,” said Dinesh. “We once even tried to convince Ramesh outside the court that there is no difference between all of us… but he became aggressive. I have lost my bhabhi because of this. We are all distraught,” he said.