‘After the boy was with us, we decided not to have our own child’
- Usman Saifi and his wife started taking care of Shabnam's child after she was sentenced to death for killing her family
While travelling with Shabnam on a bus to attend classes in JS Hindu Post-Graduate College of Amroha in 2003, her college mate, Usman Saifi, had never thought that someday he would meet her in jail and take custody of her son (now 12 years).
In 2008, Shabnam along with her lover Salim (a labourer in a sawmill in Bawankheri village of Amroha), had killed the former’s entire family in Amroha district.
After graduation, Shabnam became a ‘shiksha mitra’ in a village school and Usman was inclined towards journalism.
In 2008, Usman was shocked to learn that Shabnam and Salim had killed seven members of her family. Shabnam and Salim were arrested and lodged in Moradabad jail and later shifted to different jails. Now, 13 years on, Shabnam is in Rampur jail while Salim is languishing in Mathura jail. The President of India had rejected their mercy petition and Shabnam could be the first woman in Independent India to be hanged for her crime.
Usman Saifi, 37, now based in Bulandshahr, recalled that after going through the news he decided to write a book on Shabnam and her involvement in such a gruesome crime. “She would travel in a bus from her village to attend college, and a few times even shared a seat with me,” he recalled explaining why he chose to write a book on her. After the incident, Usman tried to meet her in jail, but Shabnam refused.
Usman came to know that she had given birth to a boy in jail in 2008 and the kalyan samiti published a notice to give the child’s custody to an appropriate couple. “I gave up the idea of the book and decided to take the child’s custody so that I could keep him away from jail life,” said Usman.
The then jailor of Moradabad jail, Dr BD Pandey, said according to the Jail Manual, a child can stay in jail with the mother or father or a guardian till the age of six years. Thereafter, the child’s custody has to be given to a couple through the district Bal Kalyan Samiti, after following a set procedure of verification.
“From among a few couples, we found Usman and his wife Vandana Singh (a teacher) most appropriate for the boy’s custody. He was handed over to them in 2015,” said Pandey.
He recalled that Shabnam wanted to hand over the boy to a fellow prisoner who assured her of taking care of him after her release from jail. “I was not in favour of handing over the child to a woman who was a repeat offender. The samiti rejected her name on my recommendation,” added Pandey.
After much persuasion, Shabnam agreed to meet Usman and his wife and the procedure of handing over the boy was completed. Usman shared that he got married to Vandana in May 2015 and the couple got custody of the boy in July 2015. Usman dubbed his wife as the real angel of the story. “We decided not to have our own child after taking custody of the boy as she feared it would divide her love and affection,” he said.
The Bal Kalyan Samiti renews custody of the boy every three months and it was last renewed on January 20. The couple takes the boy to her mother in jail on the (renewal) date. “This would continue till he attains the age of 18. Thereafter, the boy would decide where he wants to stay,” said Usman.
Usman said the boy gets upset before visiting his mother in jail because he doesn’t like jail. “When he came to us in 2015, he had three wishes... eat ice-cream, meet actor Salman Khan and wear office dress (coat and trousers). I fulfilled his first wish, we watched Salman Khan’s movie ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’ and then I bought him coat and trousers,” shared Usman.