Close to a hundred of them waited patiently outside the AIIMS mortuary from 10 in the morning, waiting for the procedure to end, so that Gurdeep Singh Chadha alias Ponty and his younger brother Hardeep could be taken home one last time.
At 4.15 pm, very peacefully the two bodies were put on ambulances adorned with flowers and everybody left for the Chhattarpur farmhouse, the residence of the two brothers.
Two hours later, the entire entourage was back. But the calm had given way to anger.
Alighting from their cars at 6.30 pm at AIIMS, angry family members narrated stories of how the ambulances never reached the farmhouse. They were stopped metres away by policemen who said bullets were still inside Ponty’s body.
Chadha’s son, angry at the to and fro, was heard speaking to policemen. “How have you let this happen? People have been waiting at the crematorium for hours because we were supposed to take the bodies there after Chhattarpur. And now you tell us that we have to come back here because the post mortem is not complete? We will wait here for one hour, and then we will go to the crematorium,” he said.
Police officers tried to explain that “it was part of their investigation”. “Please try and understand. We cannot allow the body to be cremated with bullets still in his body,” an officer said.
Fearing anger might spill into violence, constables lined up near the mortuary, stopping anyone but close family from going through.
At the Lodhi Crematorium, several hundreds stood in wait for the Chadhas from 4 in the afternoon. “I saw the obituary in the papers. It said the cremation would be at 4.30 pm. Later, we heard that since the body was released only at 4.15 pm, and the cremation was postponed to 6.30 pm. Now we hear that it will be around 9 pm, because the hospital and the police have committed some bungle. But I will stay. He was an important symbol for the Sikh community,” said Harpreet Singh, who met Ponty at Gurdwara Rakabganj. He said he knew Ponty for the past six years.
Perhaps it was a sign of the family’s influence that despite the confusion and the delay, the crowd at the crematorium just continued to swell. There were nearly 400 people at the first assigned time of 4.30 pm, but by 9 pm, around 700 had come to attend.
“The two brothers used to live in my colony in Moradabad, and I have come to pay my respects. Though I hadn’t met them for several years, I will not leave until the last rites are completed,” a shopkeeper from Moradabad Sandeep Sharma said.
When the bodies finally arrived at the crematorium at 9.15 pm, people from all walks of life were present. Om Prakash Chautala and Moradabad MP Azharuddin paid their respects. The luxury cars of the family’s business associates lined the Mathura Road outside.
And also present were small shopkeepers, like Singh, who grew up with the brothers.
Despite the bitter fight that had lead to the deaths, the family had maintained that the two brothers would be cremated together. “People told us that since there was no problem with Hardeep’s body, we should get the cremation done. But the family decided that they would be cremated side by side,” a family member said.
And so it was. As the chants of “Waheguru” went up, and the pyres of the two warring brothers were lit side by side.
Mulayam expresses grief
Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav has expressed grief over the death of businessman Ponty Chadha and his brother Hardeep. In a statement on Sunday, Yadav said the “accident” was very sad. He also expressed sympathy for their family members.