Ostracised by the villagers after their parents died of HIV, five children in Jammuwa village of Pratapgarh district (170kms south of Lucknow) were forced to live in a graveyard for nearly two months.
The children were advised by their uncle to get medical tests for HIV, but were unable to get then done as no one was willing to take them to the hospital.
Recounting their terrible ordeal, Rizwan (18) the eldest of the sibling said, "My father Yazuddin worked as a taxi driver in Mumbai. There he contacted HIV and returned home after he fell ill. My father died two years back. My mother, Afiya Bano, too contacted HIV and died in June. The villagers exerted pressure on my uncle Salahuddin to send us out of the village."
"Uncle told us to get medical test for HIV. But no one was ready to take us to the hospital for medical examination. He forced us to leave the house. Finding nowhere to go I took shelter in the graveyard with my brothers Sahil, Adil, Monikh and sister Nafisa Bano," he said.
To protect themselves from rain the children had erected a makeshift hut with tarpaulin sheet and slept on two broken cots provided by the villagers. Each morning they went for begging to the village and returned back with whatever edible items the villagers offered them. They were not allowed to play with the children and remained shunned within the boundary wall of the graveyard.
Earlier the villagers had allowed them to sleep on the verandah of the house at night while in the morning they moved back to the graveyard. But a month back, the villagers did not permit them to come near the house. "We were left with no choice but to live in the graveyard," Rizwan said.
It was only after the local media highlighted the plight of the children that the district administration swung into action. On Friday, the district magistrate Vidya Bhusan, superintendent of police LR Kumar and other district administration officers visited Jammuar village and met the children.
A medical team accompanying the district administration officials collected the blood sample of the children. Talking to HT, Bhusan said all the five children tested negative.
The district administration has decided to deposit Rs 1 lakh each in the account of the five children. They would be provided a house under Lohia Awas Yojana and a piece of land in the village.
"Till the construction of the house is completed the children would stay in the hostel of the government school," said and Bhusan adding that the ration shop owner has been told to provide free ration to the children.
"To create awareness among the children about AIDS/HIV, we have decided to organise a workshop in the village with the assistance of some voluntary organisations," Bhusan said.