After raising two sons in his more than three decades of marriage, an old man is strangulated to death and thrown into Dal lake. They had a disagreement over the investment of the money they got after disposing off a property, Khalid Bashir Gura reports the details of a family where the sole breadwinner was everybody’s punching bag
On April 7 morning, the apparently distressed wife and two sons of Khurshid Ahmad Tota, 62, a resident of Srinagar, Elahi Bagh rushed to a relative’s house to enquire about their missing family head.
“His wife was wringing hands and his sons were nervous,” recalled a relative. The family had informed neighbours and relatives that Tota had left home two days ago after he had received a phone call after Isha prayers. The family had presumed Tota may have gone to visit his mother, living a little far away. They did not panic much till the body was recovered floating on the banks of Dal lake near Akhoon mohalla Foreshore road on April 7. The revelation slipped away the floor beneath everyone’s feet.
Skeleton in the Cupboard
Neighbours who knew Tota vouch that he was a nonchalant and humble man. He had worked as an employee with the HMT watch factory. He took voluntary retirement after the factory was closed down. He had been supporting his family from the money he got after voluntary retirement.
“The sum was around Rs 14-18 lakhs,” said his sister who stifles wails along with Tota’s aged mother. He according to them had not visited them for the last six months.
Besides his wife, he had two sons. One of his sons worked at a pharmaceutical shop at Karanagar and another was learning computers at Khanyar but was idle at home according to neighbours and relatives.
Days after Tota’s murder, his under-construction house is locked. On April 5, when Tota returned after offering Isha prayers he never left the house again on his own.
According to one of the elderly neighbours, after burying him on April 7, as the murder mystery was not yet solved and investigations were going on, some of the members of the neighbourhood visited to console the family in the evening. They, however, were shocked at the subdued mourning and skin-deep grief. The suspicious neighbours started asking uncomfortable questions. Why you did not inform us of his missing earlier?
As the body was fished out from the lake, police had to make basic investigations. It was during this process that the CCTV footage of a shopkeeper in the locality soon tumbled the skeleton out of the cupboard.
A day after his murder, the body was kept at home.
“We saw entire footage from the CCTV installed on the shop. On April 5, after entering his home, he had never moved out,” said one of Tota’s neighbours who had offered evening prayers with him. “A day after his murder on the night of April 6, they carried the dead body of their father in a car and threw it into the lake as it was seen leaving in the dead of the night. Through CCTV footage, the police traced the car’s routes.”.
Earlier, as Tota’s house was under construction, they used to keep their car in the neighbour’s garage. However, they kept the car within their premises for a few days.
“One of the neighbour ladies had visited them. She found Tota’s wife in panic,” another neighbour said. “One of the rooms was locked and it was stinking.”
Tota was married for more than three decades. It was his second wife, with whom he had two sons.
“As his son’s attacked and murdered him, why did not wife raise hue and cry?” said one neighbour, insisting she was complicit.
Tota was frequently beaten at home. His neighbours recall that frail and humble Tota was previously beaten many times by his wife’s relatives. “His wife had previously tried to poison him,” Tota’s sister alleged.
Mother and Sister wail
“I die thousands of times a day,” wailed Tota’s mother, “ I am unable to understand why my daughter in law along with her son’s killed my son.”
Born after eight years to his mother, in the old city of Srinagar, near Dalal Mohalla, Pathar Masjid, his mother stifles her wails. The family sold their ancestral house and shifted to Bilal Colony, Soura. “I have my husband’s pension and I am financially independent,” she said. “I was not supported by my elder son Tota in any way as he soon parted ways with family after his marriage.”
After the daughter’s marriage, the mother was living alone.
“My daughter in law demanded money to render any services to me. I used to visit them once in a while as she ensured I do not stay there for long,” she said. “She was never amiable. His sons once thrashed their father in front of me. One of the sons nearly strangulated my son. I pleaded with my grandsons to let him go.”
Tota’s sister, a private school teacher said that her brother’s first wife was a government employee. They had no child and it ended in divorce. He married again. Three decades later, the family killed him.
Despite his family aversion, his sister said, he used to visit her on a bicycle to enquire about our welfare. For six years, Tota’s mother stayed with her daughter. However, what had soured the relations six months ago between siblings was when he declined to attend to his ailing mother.
“Initially he did not receive the phone and when he did he talked in a subdued voice,” she said. “Our mother was ill and he refused to come due to family pressure.” He had told his sister that the mother was “always living independently and did not need me.”
Decades ago, his wife had parted ways from the joint family soon after marriage. They started living separately leaving his two unmarried sisters with their mother. “He came to our marriage like a guest,” one of his sisters said, insisting they understood his limitations. “He had tried divorcing her but she pleaded forgiveness.”
“After poisoning him he used to stay cautious and became suspicious of consuming any food mindlessly,” his sister said. “She did not even properly talk with him.”
With Tota laying dead at home, the mother and sons had gone to her house inquiring about him. “They told me he had signed cheques as the house is under construction. He had sixty to eighty thousand rupees in his pocket,” she said. However, she did not allow them entry into the home fearing a reaction from her mother. “Deep down, I thought, they must have had a family fight and my brother may have fled somewhere or they may have even killed him,” she said, recalling how once his wife had violently attacked her brother.
Her worst fears soon came true.
His mother had supported him many times due to his financial limitations. Tota had recently sold his ancestral house at Soura and shared Rs 5 lakh each to his two sisters out of a total sum of Rs 85 lakhs he received. Subsequently, they had started constructing their house and purchased a car also. The two sisters had acquiesced to the amount knowing that it was unfairly shared.
As the investigations are on, Lateef Ali, SHO Nigeen, said that on the morning of April 7, an unidentified body was found floating in the Dal Lake. They rushed and fished out the body and rushed to the hospital for medico-legal formalities followed by post-mortem proceedings under section 174 CRPC. The preliminary medical report revealed marks on the neck of the deceased and it was concluded that the deceased was murdered.
“We converted the investigation procedure into 302CRPC. In the meantime, he was identified as Khurshid Ahmad Tota. Subsequently, the family had also lodged a missing report in the Soura police station on the same morning,” Ali said.
Later through circumstantial evidence, oral witnesses, CCTVs and technical analysis, our first suspicious target became his own family. After proper grilling, the family members confessed to the crime. The deceased was killed by his family members at their home on the evening of April 5, after some altercation, and the body was kept at home for a day and later jettisoned the body bag in Dal Lake, he said.
As the relations of Tota with his sons and wife were not good, the primary motivation for murder according to the initial phase of the investigation emerged the money. “The sons wanted to spend and invest the money in their own way including his wife after disposing of property for around Rs 80-90 lakhs,” he said, adding that his wife has also been arrested.
Not a First Case
Sons killing fathers are a very rare crime. Over the years, however, Jammu and Kashmir has recorded a few cases of parricide.
On the evening of September 24, 2007, the Srinagar streets were deserted as people were busy watching ICC World Twenty 2007 finals. Handicrafts seller Nazir Ahmad Mahajan was bent over his wares, attaching price tags, when his only son crept up behind him with a hammer in his hand and killed him.
During the initial investigation, police were unsure whether Zubair, 22, or his friend Suhail struck the first blow to the old man’s head. The duo had stuffed the body in a gunny bag and had no trouble lugging it across the empty streets and dumping it at neighbouring Rajbagh. Mahajan’s body was found on September 25, the day after the murder, inside the gunny bag in Rajbagh.
According to the charge sheet filed by police in the court on December 04, 2007, Nazir Mahajan, a known businessman, was “murdered by his 22-year-old son Zubair Mahajan at his shop in Kohna Khan Dalgate on 24th of September 2007.” The accused had colluded with his friend, Suhail Ahmad, an auto-driver of Rajouri Kadal, and attacked the deceased from behind with a hammer in his shop, kept his dead body in a gunny bag and dumped it near the Income Tax Department office at Rajbagh. Subsequently, “Zubair even accompanied his family members when they went to lodge a missing report in police station Khanyar,” it added.
On February 18, 2018, however, a trial court acquitted the accused after a decade “for lack of evidence.”
Similarly, two years ago, another case of the alleged killing of a father by a son in the Ramgarh area of Samba district in Jammu had come to light on August 20, 2020. The two brothers are believed to have had a dispute over something. The deceased father, Swarn Singh55, was an ex-soldier. Shankara Singh, the elder son of the former soldier, went to the police station and told that his younger brother Raunak Singh, (26, who is a soldier of the 20 Punjab Regiment of the army, has been quarrelling with him since last night. Shangra told the police that when his father tried to convince Raunak Singh, as the dispute escalated, he hit him with an iron rod.
According to him, Raunak escaped from the spot after the attack, but the accused attacked the father’s head with a sharp weapon, leaving him badly injured and falling to the ground. Later people picked up the injured father and rushed him to the government hospital in Ramgarh. After initial treatment, the injured Swaran Singh was referred to the Government Medical College, Jammu, where he died.
In another case, a young man killed his father by hitting his head with a wooden log in Jammu’s Bathindi area of the city outskirts on February 22, 2019. “Santosh Lakhera, 50, a resident of UP, had some altercation with his son, Deepak Lakhera,22 at their present residence in Bathindi area of Jammu,” a police official had told media.
He said in a fit of rage the son picked up a wooden log and hit his father in the head, resulting in a severe head injury to him.
The official said that the injured man was immediately taken to Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu, where he succumbed to his injuries.
In another scuffle, the son killed his father in Baramulla on September 3, 2016. A scuffle took place between Abdul Rehman Najar son of Abdul Jabbar resident of Bandi Bala Chandoosa and his son, Khaleel Ahmed Najar over some issue at their home.