Over a week has passed since the death of 20-year-old Anjali Singh. The incident led to huge outrage and protests among residents of New Delhi. She was riding a scooter when a Baleno carrying five inebriated men hit her. Her body was then dragged around the city for several kilometres. The horrible incident took place in the first few hours of 2023 in the capital city when Anjali was returning home from work.
Five years ago, Anjali had taken out a loan to buy the scooter and was close to repaying the loan when she died, according to her older sister Preeti. According to the police, the five people in the car, now arrested, were heavily drunk at the time of the accident.
Panic led the five men to keep driving the car for several miles, dragging her body along. During the collision, Anjali’s legs had got entangled with the car axle. The five accused, in their 20s, were identified as Deepak Khanna (26), Amit Khanna (25), Krishan (27), Mithun (26), and Manoj Mittal (26).
Manoj Mittal is allegedly connected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The probable cause of Anjali’s death, according to her post-mortem report, was “shock and haemorrhage due to injury to the head, spine, left femur, and both lower limbs”. The police have ruled out any possibility of sexual assault and said that it was not a case of personal vendetta, but that of a plain “hit-and-run”. The five accused have been charged with culpable homicide and causing death by negligence.
While an inquiry is on, Anjali’s family is having a hard time accepting what happened. Her social media profiles, which are now deactivated, hinted at her lively nature. The second of six children, she left school in class 10 to help support her family. Rekha, Anjali’s mother, told Frontline, “She was determined to only get married if her spouse agreed to stay at our house. She wanted to keep looking after us.”
Her mother and two younger brothers, depended solely on Anjali’s meagre income to sustain themselves. Anjali was earning around Rs 15,000 a month. Her father had passed away about a decade ago. Two of her sisters had already been married, but Anjali dreamed of helping her brothers, who study at a local government school, with their education before she settled down. This desire partly came from the fact that she herself had to drop out of school due to financial difficulties.
Rekha, her mother, used to work as a low-paid assistant in a school. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she lost her job. Around the same time, Rekha developed a severe kidney disease which rendered her unable to work. Regular dialysis sessions became part of her life. Thereafter, Anjali assumed full responsibility for the family.
She worked several small jobs, including offering make-up services to women in her neighbourhood as well as managing small events such as marriage functions. Soon after taking make-up classes from a nearby beauty salon, she started working as a beautician for her neighbours, with a small customer base. She would also make some money at weddings, where she typically worked with a group of other women to greet guests.
Anjali had emerged as what her mother called “a very responsible girl”. With the tragic death of Anjali, that final ember of hope was doused. In the absence of her salary, the family says, it would be difficult to sustain themselves while also providing education to her brothers, which was her dream.
Recently, actor Shah Rukh Khan came out to support Anjali’s family to help with her mother’s treatment and her brothers’ education by donating an undisclosed amount to the family.
Anjali was a member of the Dalit caste. Her modest one-room home with a kitchen in the Mangolpuri neighbourhood in north-west Delhi now lies vacant, as her mother and siblings have shifted to her grandmother’s house nearby.
Anjali was well-known in her neighbourhood as she would often raise local issues such as potholes and drains to politicians.
Omwati, one of the neighbours, told Frontline that Anjali would spend a lot of time at her house as a kid. “When she grew up, she really grew responsible as well,” she said.
Even as the investigation in Anjali’s case goes on, her mother still hopes to seek justice. She could not get the sight of Anjali’s dead body in the mortuary out of her mind, with the skin of her back completely scraped off and her clothes torn.
“She was different. She was brave, smart, and independent,” she said.