Last Saturday, 24-year-old Neha Sharma took her elder brother Karan to show him a scooter she had booked for their mother, Neelam. It was her birthday on Monday and Neha, the family's sole breadwinner, reportedly wanted to gift her widowed mother something special. Instead, the family would spend that Monday performing the last rites for Neha, who was killed on Sunday after two police bullets pierced her heart and waist in a terrible case of mistaken identity.
The Patiala girl had learnt to assume responsibility early in life. She was only nine years old when her father died, reportedThe Economic Times. As her elder brother reportedly dropped out of school while battling a drug addiction, Neha learnt to use her talent in dancing to earn a living for her family including two younger brothers. At 16, she became the only earning member of the family of five, reportedly performing in marriage functions in a group. Six months ago, she reportedly bought a house for the family.
On the fateful Sunday Neha was shot down by Punjab police, she was on her way to a performance with other members of her group, 'Arman' (Urdu for 'wish'). Unaware that earlier that morning, six prisoners, including two Khalistani terrorists and four gangsters, had escaped Nabha jail, she and her colleagues didn't know the city was on high alert.
As the car carrying her to the wedding approached a police check post, her driver, who reportedly didn't notice the additional security at first, slowed down after passing the first barricade. However, they were greeted with a shower of bullets from the police officers who couldn't tell the dancers apart from wanted fugitives. Even as the others miraculously escaped the unwarranted firing, Neha, who was in the front seat besides the driver, died almost immediately. The police officers, realising their error, managed to escaped the spot, barring one who was immediately caught by locals.
Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Suresh Arora called it a case of "mistaken identity". The cop who allegedly killed Neha, head constable Shamsher Singh Shera, has been booked for murder. The family, reeling from the loss of their daughter, sister, will soon have to deal with practical concerns like their home loan. Neha will never gift her mother the scooter she had planned for a birthday surprise.