January 23: Law student Priyadarshini Mattoo, 24, is found murdered in her Sector B-10 flat, again in Vasant Kunj. Santosh Singh, son of an IPS officer and a lawyer himself, whom she knew well, is arrested and confesses reportedly to having strangled her.
The Sushmita Sensation was its crowning glory, for it was the former Miss Universe's triumph which put Vasant Kunj on the Indian map. A spate of recent murders, however, has transformed the image of this sprawling apartment complex in south-west Delhi to that of the "most dangerous" address in the capital.
Vasant Kunj witnessed eight cases of murder in 1994 in which 11 persons were killed; seven in 1995 with 10 people killed and two murder cases already in January 1996, with six people killed. In all, since 1994, there have been 17 murder incidents (including multiple murders), nine murder attempts, 105 burglaries and thefts, 16 kidnappings and 143 vehicle thefts. Little wonder then that most families, currently occupying some 8,000 of the 12,000-odd DDA flats, are gripped by a fear psychosis. Consequently, the demand for these otherwise prized flats has nose-dived, though it has not yet affected property and rental prices.
"Residents have started feeling very insecure, as though they are at God's mercy," says A.K. Khattar, general secretary, Residents' Welfare Association (RWA) of Sector C-2. Adds Renu Mathur, a housewife who lives a few blocks away from where the Sharma family was murdered: "The murders have shocked everybody, but there are other reasons why we live in acute fear: chain and purse snatching, kidnappings and unchecked movement of hawkers and salesmen."