HAPUR, Uttar Pradesh — Naseem knew that getting justice for her murdered husband would be difficult and painstakingly slow. The 35-year-old Muslim woman was reconciled to the police and the courts moving at a glacial pace. She was ready to wait for months, even years, for closure.
But Naseem had never imagined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh would show no interest in punishing the men who were accused of lynching Qasim. She had never imagined the UP police would seemingly sabotage their own investigation.
One month after her husband was killed, Naseem asked why, despite there being video footage of 12 to 13 men and boys present at the crime scene, the police had failed to identify and arrest them.
"The whole country has seen the video, seen the faces of the men who were watching my husband die, but the police cannot find the people who killed him," she said. "If this is reality, then a poor person should not expect justice in this country."
Naseem is observing idta, a four-month period of confinement following the death of a husband, but she gets all the news about her husband's case from her female relatives and neighbors. When one of the four men arrested in connection with the lynching was granted bail on July 6, she was devastated.
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"I don't understand how one man has got bail before all the people in the video have not been caught and questioned yet," she said. "If the police has put up such a bad case then perhaps the rest will also get bail and get out."
The news of the bail was a shock and a wake-up call for the family, Naseem said. "Till then, we had relied on the police, but now we are getting lawyers. The family is very tense. The men are fruit and vegetable sellers, who have no knowledge of legal matters. They are not sure of what to do."
If this is reality, then a poor person should not expect justice in this country.
A month after Qasim and another Muslim man Samiuddin were attacked by cow vigilantes near Bhagera Khurd village in Hapur, the case is in shambles as lawyers for both, the defence and the prosecution, have poked holes in the police investigation.
Forgotten so quickly
Naseem, who has six children, fears that her husband will be soon be forgotten by the state and the public.
"I can feel the difference. For a week or two after the murder, there were so many politicians and journalists coming to the house, but now hardly anyone visits. When so many people were visiting us, I felt confident that I would get justice, there was a momentum, there was hope, but it has gone in less than a month."
An elderly woman sitting next to Naseem said, "There is no coverage of Qasim in the news." Another woman chimed in: "For the first week after it happened, it was always in the news, but now there is nothing. Nothing. Even the news of the bail did not make news."
As she brought out a photograph of Qasim from a plastic bag, Naseem said, "It's like he never existed, it's as if nothing happened. Everyone has forgotten. There will come a time when only I will remember him."
It's like he never existed, it's as if nothing happened.
Politics of hate
A few days after her husband was murdered by cow vigilantes, Naseem, in a conversation with HuffPost India, said that she blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the violence against Muslims, which had become routine in the four years since the BJP came to power at the centre.
Naseem spoke of the fear that her Qureshi community, traditional cattle traders and butchers, lived with.
A month on, after witnessing the shoddy investigation of the BJP government in the state, Naseem was even stronger in her criticism of the prime minister. "I felt angry yesterday, I feel angry today and I will feel angry tomorrow," she said.
Speaking in a soft tone, she said, "The killing of Muslims is being encouraged. Muslims are being slaughtered like animals. If the Modi government was against it, if his government had come down heavily against it, these kinds of crimes would not be tolerated. There were governments before this one, but these kinds of killings did not happen. So would it not be fair to say that Muslims are being targeted and killed under the Modi government?"
Would it not be fair to say that Muslims are being targeted and killed under the Modi government?
As a hush fell over the small room with green-colored walls, Naseem continued, "Modi should not appeal to Hindus to hate. Today, it is my family that has fallen prey to the hate, tomorrow it will be someone else, and the situation will keep getting worse."
When it was pointed out that Hindus and Muslims had a history of violence in India, Naseem said, "There was fighting between Hindus and Muslims earlier as well, but not like this. Muslims were not targeted and beaten by mobs. You have seen the video of how he was beaten to death, how did you feel when you saw it. Now imagine my pain, I am his wife."
"Muslims and Hindus don't have different blood, but there are two religions which have been created in the world. The way things are in the world should continue, but something very different and wrong is happening," she said.
You have seen the video of how he was beaten to death, how did you feel when you saw it. Now imagine my pain, I am his wife.
Coping with a lynching
When a male relative entered the room, Naseem turned her back to the door and pulled the paloo of her sari over her face. When she removed the paloo, a few minutes later, there were tears in her eyes.
"It is difficult for me to speak like this. There is pain inside, but I speak to the media in the hope that people will read about Qasim, it will keep his story alive and our fight to get him justice can continue," she said.
At this point, her female relatives talked about how hard life would be for Naseem, without her husband.
"We will go away soon. Who will be left with her? Her daughter has come today from her in-laws place but she cannot stay for long. A woman is nothing without her husband," the elderly woman said, as the other women hummed in agreement.
Naseem said, "There are somethings that a husband and wife can only tell each other. They cannot even share with their children."
During the day, in the company of her many female relatives, Naseem said she can cope with her grief, but the nights are overwhelming. "My heart feels heavy and lonely. When I'm trying to fall sleep, I think about how I will live, how will I spend my days, how will I spend my life."
Naseem, who can neither read nor write, says that it is frustrating for her to sit in a room while the men in her family handle the lawyers and the police. Having a more active role would help alleviate her pain in some measure, she said.
"I'm the one feeling the most pain, but I can do nothing to help," she said. "But I can speak, and I will keep speaking until we get justice. I won't let this go."
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