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Will SC end 8-year-old foster father-son kinship?

Last updated on: August 12, 2011 22:35 IST

'I do not want to go back to my mother'

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

Akbar was only four years old when Ainku Lal found him abandoned in a park in Lucknow. Lal adopted Akbar and brought him up as his own son. However, today, Lal is in a dilemma, Akbar's biological mother wants her son back and has approached the Supreme Court of India.

Twelve-year-old Akbar is unwilling to go back to his mother forsaking his foster father, Aiku Lal, with whom he has spent eight long years.

"I just do not wish to go back to my mother, who is not even in a position to let me continue my studies," Akbar told this scribe in reaction to the petition moved by his mother, Shahnaz before the apex court seeking custody of her son.  

Lal, who has not only been a guardian, friend, philosopher and guide to Akbar, has also looked after him as his own son. Lal dreads the thought of parting with the boy.

After all, Lal's life has been circling around Akbar right since 2003 when he found him in a park, overlooking the tiny tea stall that he runs for his livelihood in Lucknow's Qaiser Bagh area.

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Image: Twelve-year-old Akbar with his foster father Aiku Lal at Qaiserbagh Baradari park in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar
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'Nothing wrong in guardianship of Muslim child by Hindu'

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Significantly, all arguments raised by the mother against her child's stay with a third person belonging to another religion were trashed by the Allahabad high court.

"When there are inter-caste and inter-faith marriages, I see nothing wrong in the guardianship of a Muslim child by a Hindu, specially since the child dotes on him and does not want to leave him," ruled high court Judge Barkat Ali Zaidi, whose verdict had now been challenged before the Supreme Court.

The court had taken serious view of the fact that neither Akbar's father nor mother had lodged a report with the police when the boy went missing. It was on a winter evening of 2003 that four-year-old Akbar was out with his father on the streets of Allahabad, where the father decided to halt at a country liquor shop. Apparently Akbar slipped away and realisation dawned on the father only after reaching home. The father died two years later.

No one knows how the little fellow found his way to the Qaiserbagh Baradari park in Lucknow where Aiku Lal spotted a sobbing Akbar.

Aiku Lal gave the child a new life, but made it a point to ensure that not just Akbar's name but his religion remained unchanged. Akbar is clearly growing up as a true Muslim under the guardianship of a Hindu foster father, who gets him the best of everything he can afford.

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Image: Aiku Lal and Akbar take a walk in the Qaiserbagh Baradari park in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar
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'I pray that the court does not compel us to part'

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The rustic tea stall owner got Akbar to learn his Quran lessons and to offer his daily namaz. And for his formal education, Akbar walks down to the close-by Mumtaz Intermediate College where he is a student of class VII. This father ensures that the boy goes to school in well-ironed uniform every day.

Asked why he chose to remain a bachelor, Aiku Lal said, "Well, I was always apprehensive that a Hindu woman may not agree to bring up my Muslim son, therefore I made up my mind to remain a bachelor."  Looking at the father with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eyes, he asks, "Now see, don't we make a complete family?"

But what seems to be Ainku Lal's only dilemma today is what would he do if the Supreme Court were to order Akbar's restoration to his biological mother, who was now insistent of getting back his custody. She told scribes in Allahabad, "When I can bring up my two younger daughters then why can't I look after Akbar." And to everyone's surprise, her argument before the apex court is full of accusations against Ainku Lal, whom she has charged with using Akbar for washing glasses at the tea-stall, which have been denied not only by people in the neighbourhood, but even more vehemently by the boy himself.

Yet, Ainku Lal is keeping his fingers crossed. "I am only praying to God that the court does not compel us to part; I know I will have to abide by the court order but that would be the end of my purpose in life," he avers with tears in his eyes. 

Image: Aiku Lal found a sobbing four-year-old Akbar at a park in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar
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