Tragedy revisited: A family devastated in a moment of rage

  • Ananya Bhardwaj, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 14, 2016 14:58 IST
Shehnawaz’s mother Noorjehan (right) breaks down talking about her son, his wife Farzana looks on. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

Kaif is just nine. As his friends play cricket in a lane opposite his house, cheering the sixes and fours, he sits in a corner watching them, disenchanted. Suddenly, he gets up and storms inside his house, slamming the door.

He is angry. Next week, he will be asked to recall the night of April 5, yet again.

Kaif was just eight when a year ago this day his father, Mohammad Shehnawaz, was battered to death by four men with iron rods for accidentally grazing his bike against a car near Turkman Gate, Old Delhi.

Kaif had stood there, clutching on to his elder brother, who was 13 then, scared and howling, as onlookers refused to help.

A year after the incident, Kaif remembers the minutest details. As a witness, he appears before court every three months. Kaif has developed anger issues and his brother Fahad has gone eerily quiet, the family says.

“Just a mention of that evening makes him sweat. He shivers, trembles and cries. Sometimes he just snaps and at times does not answer. Even if we try to make him forget that evening, every three months he has to unwillingly recall the incident. The people asking questions are insensitive but our child has to cooperate,” says Noorjehan, Kaif’s grandmother.

Kaif is aware about the presence of some guests. Listening to the conversation from behind a door, he joins in.

“They ask me about the colour of the film on the windows of the car from which the four men came out to beat up abbu. They ask me what was inside the car, the exact distance between the spot where abbu was killed and my home. Then they ask me how far was the temple from that spot. They tell me to recall where was abbu hit.

“Was I looking at the car to see what all was kept inside, or the colour of the film, when my abbu was being battered? Was I counting the number of blows? Why do they ask me the same kind of questions again and again?” Kaif asks.

Before he finishes, his elder brother Fahad comes and takes him out.

Farzana, who has studied only till class 9 and is a homemaker, is worried about her children’s education. Till last year, her husband Shehnawaz, an electrician, was supporting the family. Now they have no income.

The case had received a lot of media attention and the Delhi government had promised the family a compensation of `10 lakh and free education for Shehnawaz’s two sons and a six-year-old daughter till class 12. But the cheques for Fahad and Kaif’s school fees came for only three months.

“They were studying in a different school earlier. After the incident, CM Kejriwal told us the government will fund their education and that they should be shifted to a good private school. My sons were given admission in JK Happy School. Though their fee was `6,000 per month, something we cannot afford, I was content as the government was paying. After three months, the cheques stopped coming. The school asked us to pay the fees or take a transfer certificate,” Farzana says.

“We went to the minister to seek help but we were told to go back. The minister said he will see if the government can still pay the fee. We did not receive even a single penny of the `10 lakh compensation.”

Kaif (sitting) with his brother Fahad. Both saw their father being beaten to death on April 5, 2015. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

Unable to arrange fees, she was forced to strike her children’s names off the rolls. “It was impossible for me to arrange so much money. I wish I had not listened to the government then. Their previous school had offered to waive off their fees till class 12 but I had not thought my kids will go to a better public school. Now I have applied in a government school and hope my kids get admission,” she says.

Farzana covers her face to hide her tears. She does not want cry in front her six-year-old daughter. Shy of her mother-in-law sitting beside her, she refrains from sharing how much she loves Shehnawaz. She had never cared to step out of the house when he was alive. Right from shopping, paying bills, dropping kids to school and taking them to tuition, Shehnawaz did it all.

Shehnawaz’s family during a protest to demand compensation from the government in July 2015. (Arun Sharma/HT Photo)

“I had never stepped out of the house to even buy a needle. All my life, I had never climbed a rickshaw, never visited a government office, let alone a courtroom. But now I make at least six to seven trips on a rickshaw every day. I had never imagined I will be shuttling between offices to get my children admitted in school. Never imagined arranging money would be that difficult. I feel burdened at times but then I think of my children,” she says. “He treated me like a princess. When he saw me working in the kitchen he used to come and help,” she says. Farzana is now looking for a job.

Noorjehan says the four men arrested for the crime should get life imprisonment. She fears for the safety of her grandchildren. She fears the four men may return and attack her grandsons.

“They asked us to withdraw the case but we refused. When we go to court with the kids, at least 150 people appear for the killers. They stare at my grandsons and I feel they will attack them someday. I never let them step out alone. We have even sought police protection,” she says.

She says the scars reopen every time they hear of such a case.“People don’t realise that in a fit of rage they can devastate an entire family,” she says, tears welling up in her eyes.

The Delhi government claimed it had never promised any compensation to the family. Matia Mahal MLA Asim Ahmed Khan said, “The fee that I paid for over six months was from my own pocket. The family when they met the CM had only two demands. One was the arrest of the killers and the other was admission for their children in a good school. I spent over `3 lakh and paid for their books, uniforms, stationery and six months fee.”

“Former MLA Shoaib Iqbal misguided them. After they started protesting against us under his influence, I stopped paying.”

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