Victims’ neighbours at Gorakhpur village on Wednesday. Courtesy: Jaipal Singh

VERY SHY and always scared of their stepfather, Habib Shah. That is how Aasiya, 22, and Shifa, 18, came across.

Neighbours recall the family had shifted to Gorakhpur village three months ago from nearby Maddawala village but the girls did not mix up with anyone in the locality. The neighbours said heated arguments were exchanged between the two sisters and Habib Shah two days ago.

Ritu, a beautician working from her house, told Chandigarh Newsline, “Aasiya and Shifa were very shy. They came to my house after every fortnight to get threading done. Whenever they came, they always remained in a hurry saying Abbu would scold them if they got late. It was despite the fact that my house is hardly 10 metres from the victims’ house. The two were very scared of their father. They told me that Habib Shah was their stepfather.”

Chanchal Devi, another neighbour, said, “The two sisters worked with a company at Baddi. Sunday was their weekly off. But we did not see them outside the house. Once one of them told me that their father did not like his daughters to step outside the house. She told me that they are working in a factory to run their household. Both sisters always used to cover their heads with dupattas. Their father was very strict about it. On Monday, there was a huge noise coming from their house. The sisters were shouting and Habib was also shouting at them. Today, we came to know that Habib had tried to commit sexual assault against his youngest stepdaughter.

The house owner, Parmod Kumar, was not present at his house. A woman relative of his said, “Parmod Kumar also rented out a shop, which adjoins the two rooms, to Habib Shah. Habib Shah did not interact much. His wife Sajjo used to give us the rent. We did not see her two daughters much outside the house. But yesterday, we learnt that their elder sister, Aasiya, was not well and suffering from fever.”

Mahinder Singh of Gorakhpur village said, “Habib Shah ran shouting aaj to sara kalesh hi khatam kar diya. His clothes were soaked in blood. He ran towards the Pinjore-Baddi highway and later disappeared. I along with others rushed to the house of Habib Shah when I heard his wife’s shouts for help.”