A pair of worn slippers, a faded blue T-shirt, a tattered piece of cloth. It was from such poignant fragments that emerged the identity of the murdered children in this horrifying tale of depravity and wickedness. The Noida serial killings — in which a businessman and his domestic help have allegedly confessed to killing nine children and a young woman — have provided a rude shock to the conscience of the nation. Few crimes in this country have been marked by such inhumanity. For almost two years, the two suspects had apparently lured poor children into the businessman's house, where the victims were sexually assaulted, strangled, cut into pieces, and buried in an adjoining drain. With at least 15 skulls and more skeletal remains being unearthed at the spot, it is apparent that the full story about the gruesome serial crimes remains to be told. However, the available information raises worrying questions about the manner in which the police have investigated the cases of missing children in Noida. Over the past two years, some 30 children have been reported missing from Nithari village and nearby areas — not far from the Noida Sector 31 house in which the master-servant duo, Mohinder Singh and Surendra Kohli, resided. Frequent abductions on such a scale should have led to a massive coordinated search and a full-blown investigation, both of which were absent. In India, the low priority accorded to criminal investigation — as against law and order maintenance — has often resulted in a neglect of an essential function of the police, that of pursuing leads and solving crimes.
The Uttar Pradesh Government has admitted there may have been "carelessness" on the part of the police, suspended two lowly constables, promised to punish police officials found guilty of negligence, and constituted a two-member committee to probe the killings — an insufficient response and one that is clearly aimed at diminishing public anger about police apathy. The relative indifference of the police top brass to the phenomenon of the missing children contrasts sharply with the manner in which they swung into action after the three-year-old son of a senior vice-president of a software company was kidnapped from Noida in November, 2006. The boy was restored to his parents within days of his abduction. In Nithari, parents of victims claim that the police did little when they reported that their children were missing. The Noida killings are a tragic reminder of how weighted the criminal justice system is against the socially and economically underprivileged.