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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Four sisters thrown off train in UP: I paid a price for giving birth to girls, says mother

Baffled by the case that threw up fresh twists with each passing day, police join the dots with the help of the children’s ‘back-from-the-dead mother’.

india Updated: Nov 02, 2017 15:30 IST
Rohit K Singh and Oliver Fredrick
Rohit K Singh and Oliver Fredrick
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Algun (leg in plaster) with her mother Afreena Khatoon in Sitapur district hospital.
Algun (leg in plaster) with her mother Afreena Khatoon in Sitapur district hospital.(Oliver/HT Photo)

Abbu (father) Algun Khatoon, 9, recoils in horror when people talk about her Abbu. Lying in Sitapur district hospital with her left leg shattered, she has been told her father hurled her out of a moving train.

She has been told her father also pushed off three of her sisters — Rabia, 12, Muniya, 7, and Shamina, 4 — from the train. She has been told Muniya is dead. Her Ammi (mother) told her all this.

This is the same version the children’s mother, Afreena Khatoon, 36, has given to different police officials. It is also her version recorded before Rupali Saxena, chief judicial magistrate (Sitapur), on Wednesday.

Afreena says her husband, Iddu Mian, 42, threw four of their five daughters off the Kamakhya-Katra Express on the intervening night of October 23 and 24. The train was passing through Sitapur, about 90 km north of Lucknow, when Iddu allegedly threw his children, who were sleeping, one after another.

Baffled by the case that threw up fresh twists with each passing day, railway police believe they now have a grip on the investigation. They have intensified their hunt for Iddu, whose cell phone was last tracked to Jammu.

The initial investigation was dictated by Algun’s account. She was the only child among the three surviving sisters talking to the police.

The saviour
  • Atma Prasad Verma, gateman of railway crossing 48B, Bhawanipur (Sitapur), wants the “strictest punishment” for Iddu. He is vocal because he was the first to spot Algun and Shamina along the tracks and rescue them. He called an ambulance and alerted the police. On Wednesday, Afreena met Verma when she was on her way to record her statement before the magistrate. “I am happy that their mother is here,” said Verma.

Algun’s version led the police to book the children’s uncle and his friend in the case. Later, the police ruled out both as suspects. Her account also led the police to initially suspect the children and their mother were thrown off the Amritsar-Saharsa Express.

When police found a body by the railway tracks at Maigalganj in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 25, Algun identified it as her mother’s.

Five days later, everyone was shocked when Afreena turned up at her mother’s village in Bihar’s West Champaran district with her youngest daughter, two-year-old Shehzadi. By then, Afreena’s mother, Rabeena Khatoon, 67, had come to know of her granddaughters’ plight and left for Sitapur with neighbours.

Afreena doesn’t care about talk that she came ‘back from the dead’.

“I paid the price for giving birth to girls,” she cries in anguish, sitting next to Algun on bed number 7 in a congested ward of the hospital. She is unmindful of the people who crowd outside the glass partition, having heard about the ghastly incident.

“Muniya died because of me,” she sobs every now and then. “Humka toh pata hi nahi chala kab charo bitiya ka uh fek dehin. Hum to chotki bitiya ki saath doosraka taraf sovat rahi (I did not even know when Iddu threw out our four daughters. I was sleeping with my youngest daughter. on another seat).”

According to Afreena, her daughters were probably thrown out of the train late at night — she believes it was after midnight — and none of the co-passengers in the general coach noticed anything amiss.

At some point, Afreena woke up and discovered her daughters missing. When she asked Iddu, he allegedly replied, “Fek diye (I threw them).”

Afreena said even as fear gripped her, Iddu added, “Paanch-paanch ladkiyan ko kaun palat aur kaun shadi karawat (who will feed five girls and arrange for their marriages).”

The well-wishers
  • Strangers are turning up at the Sitapur hospital and offering money and moral support to Afreena and her children. Ram Charan Arya, who identified himself as a private company employee, came with his wife to see Algun on Wednesday. He sneaked some money into Afreena’s hands. HT saw some others do the same.

“He threatened to throw me and Shehzadi out if I raised an alarm,” Afreena told HT. She added Iddu’s chilling demeanour and threats forced her to keep mum till the train reached Jammu, where he abandoned them.

Afreena said she made it back to Bihar with Shehzadi with great difficulty, unaware of the fate of her other four daughters.

Afreena said Iddu worked as a labourer in Jammu and returned to his village, Sarya Kachchehri in Motihari, the headquarters of East Champaran district, a day before Diwali (October 18). Then he came to see her at her mother’s house at Jhakra village in Bettiah, the administrative headquarters of West Champaran district.

Years ago, when Iddu left Bihar to work in Jammu, Afreena and her children decided to stay at Jhakra. “Iddu never fulfilled his responsibilities as a father. In the 13 years we have been married, he neither cared for us nor gave any money,” said Afreena. “This time he was adamant on taking me and the children with him. My mother never wanted us to go, but he insisted and she relented. I wish my mother would have stopped us from going with him; stopped us from boarding the train from Bettiah on October 22,” she added.

Afreena’s mother, Rabeena, said she never had high opinion of her son-in-law, but did not expect him to be a “jallad (evil man)” who “murdered his own child and wanted the rest to die too”.

“Hum to uuh jalladwa se poochan chahat hai ki bitiyan ka kahe fekis dis jab aoke paale ke naahi rahe. Hum toh paalte rahni sabka peechle kaeen baras se (I want to ask this monster why he did this when he never did anything for them and I was raising them for years,” said Rabeena.

Body mistakenly believed to be Afreena’s identified
  • Police said the body found near the tracks at Maigalganj was of a 17-year-old girl, Poonam Singh, of a nearby village. Additional superintendent of police, Lakhimpur Kheri, Ghanshyam Chaurasiya, said the girl’s father told the police she had left the house in a huff after he scolded her for not doing household work. Chaurasiya said the initial probe suggests she committed suicide.

Rabeena and Afreena work as farm labourers and domestic helps at Jhakra. Rabeena’s son, Ifthikar Ansari, tills a small piece of land they own in the village.

Rabeena said the family of three adults and the minor children survived on Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 per month, and often depended on eatables and clothes given by their employers.

Armed with Afreena’s account, government railway police (GRP) personnel are hunting for Iddu. A police team reached Jammu on the basis of his cell phone’s last location but could not find him.

“Our team located his house in Jammu, but he managed to slip away. We will track him down,” said Ashish Verma, station officer of GRP (Lakhmipur Kheri), who is investigating the case.

First Published: Nov 02, 2017 07:21 IST