NEW DELHI — Saira Bano, whose son Hafeez Junaid was stabbed to death on a Mathura-bound train from Delhi on June 22 last year, held up a laminated picture of the 15-year-old's mortal remains and asked, "If Modi had a son, would he have liked to see his son like this?"
Bano had spent the last hour listening to families of other Muslim lynching victims' kin and activists in an event organised in Delhi by a collective called 'United Against Hate'. Earlier in the day, student-activist Umar Khalid had been attacked by a gun wielding person at the same venue when he had come to attend the event.
Bano briefly lifted the veil of her black burqa to address the gathering and question the government, which according to her, had emboldened the lynch mobs. "Had I been anywhere near when the man had attacked Umar, I would have grabbed him and given him two tight slaps. This is the work of a terrible person," Bano said to thundering applause.
Besides Bano, families of Rakhbar Khan who was lynched in Alwar, Rajasthan a month back and Alimuddin Ansari, who was killed last year at Ramgarh, Jharkhand were present at the meet. Samaydin, the man who survived the lynch mob in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh that killed Qasim was also present. Missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed's mother was also present at the meet.
"We have not got justice. My son was brutally murdered, and it's been 25 days since then. There's no sign of progress in the case," Khan's 60-year-old father told HuffPost India. Khan's brother Mohammad pointed at the the police's alleged mishandling of the case and said maybe his brother would have lived if they cared about keeping his alive. It has been reported that police took Khan to the hospital at least three hours after they found him at the spot where he was beaten up. They, reportedly, even stopped for tea on the way. Khan was lynched by a group of six to seven people, who suspected that he was smuggling cows for slaughter.
Maryam Khatoon, whose husband Alimuddin Ansari was beaten to death by a mob of 30 gau rakshaks and alleged Bajrang Dal members in July last year, said that her family had felt vindicated for a while when the killers were convicted and awarded life sentences. However, things changed radically after 9 out of the 10 convicted killers were granted bail by the Jharkhand HC. Eight of the convicts were later garlanded and felicitated by Union minister Jayant Sinha.
Speaking to HuffPost India a few days back, Khatoon had questioned what message the government was sending out by garlanding killers. At the meet, she said, "I want to ask Jayant Sinha, what if instead of my husband, his own son had been lynched by a mob? What if his own daughter-in-law had been widowed? How would he feel if then, the killers of his near and dear ones, were fed sweets and applauded by a minister. Would he be able to bear that?"
Former IPS officer and activist SR Darapuri asked why incidents of mob lynchings have suddenly peaked since the BJP came to power at the Centre. "I'm not saying there weren't incidents of lynching in the past. There used to be lynchings of people, especially adivasi women who were accused of being witches. But now this has increased in magnitude and seems to have spread to various sections of the society. Why is this happening?" he asked.
He added that the reason why these lynch mobs have been emboldened is because of the BJP's brand of politics. "Their's is a politics of hate, a politics of violence."
In April this year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted bail to one of the men accused of killing Junaid and said that the fracas that took the teenager's life was "only regarding the seat sharing and abuses in the name of castes and nothing more". A lower court had earlier observed that Junaid had been abused by the accused over his religion.
Recounting the day Junaid was killed, Bano said, "I remember both my sons were observing roza and on that day, they were both unfed for 16 hours. I was also keeping roza and meanwhile, preparing meals and waiting for my sons to return so that we can all break the fast and eat together. Then suddenly, people from the neighbourhood came and said, 'there was a fight between the kids, where's your boy?'"
Bano had just finished reading her namaaz at home and initially thought that the boys had gotten involved in a minor scuffle. As the hours passed and people around her began to look grim, Bano said, she started feeling uneasy about Junaid especially. "I don't know why, but I kept thinking that my son is dead and it is probably Junaid who has died," Bano said. She pulled out a picture of her other son Saqib lying injured in the hospital and said, "This is my other son. I was so filled with dread when people were refusing to tell me what happened to Junaid that I almost forgot about him."
She added, "What I suffered, I hope no mother ever has to." She added, "The Prime Minister will never understand. He left his wife even. Only a mother who has birthed a child, brought the child up, will understand the pain of losing a child."
Rakhbar Khan's brother recollected how he couldn't believe how human beings could inflict the kind of injuries on another human after he saw his brother's body. "One hand was broken at three places. His skull was smashed. Almost all the bones of his ribs were broken and had dug into the flesh. When I saw his body and shuddered thinking how much pain he must have suffered before he died," he said.
He said how the victim's wife is still reeling under the shock of his death and has barely been able to leave her bed or eat. "He has really young children. We are poor people, who will take care of them now? His wife faints even at the mention of his death even now," Khan said.