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Hey Mr Owaisi, these are Muslims too!

Last updated on: April 27, 2019 00:42 IST

One teenager died in police firing last May.
Another teenager is paralysed waist down.
Both families have been ignored by the political establishment, including the AIMIM.
Jyoti Punwani reports from Aurangabad.

IMAGE: Harun Qadri, who lost his eldest son Haris in police firing last May, with his younger sons on either side of him. Photograph: Jyoti Punwani

Aurangabad went to the polls on Tuesday.

Did its Muslims -- estimated to number 430,000 in a population of 1.935 million -- vote for Subhash Zhambad, the somewhat lacklustre candidate of their old party, the Congress, or for their new messiah, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's sitting MLA Imtiyaz Jaleel?

Will this split in Muslim votes benefit Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire, or his former party colleague and state BJP president Raosaheb Danve's son-in-law Harshvardhan Jadhav, standing as an Independent backed by former Congress MLA Abdul Sattar?

Had the Congress given Sattar the ticket, would it have won on the basis of Muslim votes?

Did its reluctance to give Sattar the funds needed to fight the election stem from its deep-seated prejudice against the community?

These questions are discussed openly in Aurangabad.

Here, Muslims figure prominently in election campaigns here, even in these times when a low profile is being adopted by them elsewhere.

Yet, these questions matter little in two Muslim homes which lie bang in the heart of the city's old Muslim localities.

In these homes, the air of gloom is rarely broken, not even by the din of elections.

Syed Nasser scored a respectable 64% in his Class 11 exam last year and dreamt of becoming a mechanical engineer.

Today, the youngster asks his former classmates how they fared in their Class 12 exams as he lies in bed, paralysed waist downwards, after a bullet entered the back of his shoulder and pierced his spinal chord.

The bullet was fired by the police in a riot that broke out last May in his neighbourhood.

Nasser was on his way to his aunt's house when he was shot.

"Everyone suddenly started running, so I started running too," the teenager says.

The last year has been a nightmare for the family who have spent between Rs 300,000 to Rs 400,000 on Nasser's treatment.

That's the kind of money Nasser's father, Syed Naeem, a garage mechanic, can barely afford.

But money is the least concern for the parents of the bright 18 year old who today whiles away his time on his mobile and on helping his youngest sister with her studies.

"He won't let her out of his sight once she comes back from school," says his mother Tabassum, whose eyes fill up even before I can ask her anything.

The lives of both father and mother today revolve around their son.

Before going to work, Naeem changes his diapers and bathes him. Since he has no sensation waist downwards, his parents must check all through the day that he is clean and dry.

The medicines, lack of activity and his helpless condition have made the youngster lose his appetite.

When he does eat, he finds everything tasteless, says his mother.

"We often send for his favourite food from out," adds his father.

It's only in the last three months, says Tabassum, that Nasser has even started to show any interest in the world.

His parents have managed to get a wheelchair now, and they take him around the house in that.

Now, he tells Rediff.com, he may consider sitting for his Class 12 exam through a correspondence course.

Expectedly, the riots, in which two people were killed, and one policeman seriously injured, created a furore in the city.

IMAGE: Syed Nasser.

AIMIM MLA Imtiyaz Jaleel sat on a dharna outside the police station to protest the indiscriminate arrests of Muslims; prominent Shiv Sena leader Lachu Pahelwan was arrested; and an special investigation team set up to investigate the violence.

Nasser then should have become a cause celebre for his community. Which politicians came to help you, I ask his father.

Before the mild-mannered Naeem can reply, Nasser retorts: "Not one."

Did the family approach anyone?

"Why should we?" again Nasser replies before his father or chacha can.

"Everyone knew I had been shot; it was in the papers. AIMIM corporator Ayyub Jahagirdar lives down the lane. Even he didn't bother."

Jahagirdar is leader of the Opposition in the Aurangabad municipal corporation.

The Muslim Numainda Council, an informal group of citizens, has been helping Naeem coordinate with leading doctors in the city, one of whom has now recommended that Nasser be shown to a Mumbai expert.

As Naeem and his brother make preparations to take Nasser to Mumbai, they collect phone numbers of trusts and good samaritans in Mumbai from the Forum.

In Aurangabad, they know, no one else is going to help.

Even as I interview Nasser, barely five minutes away from his house, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi addresses a huge election rally.

**

Not far from Nasser's home is the old family residence of second-hand motorcycle dealer Harun Qadri.

Its terrace was the favourite hangout of his eldest son, Harris.

Like Nasser, Harris too was in Std XI, the first in his family to enter college.

Unlike Nasser though, Harris no longer lives in this house.

The 17 year old died within hours of being shot during the same riot that crippled Yasser.

Harris Qadri

"When the stone-throwing started, he went out to fetch his younger brother, who was playing outside," says his grief-stricken mother Ranu."'Mummy, bas do minute mein aaya' he told me. I didn't meet him after that."

Within minutes of Harris being shot, his neighbours picked him up, made him sit between them on a motorbike and took him to hospital.

"There, his breaths became shallow," recalls his father.

"The doctor told us there's very little hope."

Harris' mother wasn't told right away.

"They just told me he's injured. I was dying to rush to the hospital, but curfew had been imposed," she recalls her heart-breaking wait.

"It was when they came home for his Aadhar card and his photograph that I sensed something was wrong. Still, I had to wait at home with my two little boys."

"They finally brought him home the morning of the day after," she says. "I never got to see my son alive..."

What was Harris like? Was he good at studies? The family has received no compensation because the police have called their son a rioter.

"Oh he was a good boy," says Ranu.

"There could never be a son like my Harris. Obedient, always polite to elders. We had planned to send him to a good engineering college in nearby Khultabad after his Class 12."

"He loved kabutars (pigeons)," continues Ranu.

"He would spend all his time after his studies on the terrace looking after his kabutars. He barely stepped out of home, except to play cricket in the lane outside. Had he been part of the rioters, it wouldn't have hurt so much."

"What will we do with compensation?" asks Ranu.

A native of Malad, north west Mumbai, Ranu recalls that in the early years of her marriage, finances were tight.

"Only in the last few years, things started looking up. But then this happened..."

The sudden tragic death of his eldest has broken his father, says Ranu.

"He was more of a friend to his sons, horsing around with them all the time. Now, every day after midnight, he goes to his son's grave and spends an hour there."

"For the first few months, my little boys used to keep asking me: Why did this happen to our brother? All I could say was: We have never seen such things. This violence happened for the first time, and it destroyed our home."

The lane where the Qadris live has Muslim homes, but just where it turns, are Hindu homes.

"There's never been a riot here," says Qadri.

"When the police came the next morning breaking down doors, calling people out, our Hindu neighbours told them that our son had been shot dead and they should spare our house."

Harris's body was kept in the house for 36 hours as the family insisted that the police take action against their colleagues who had fired.

Later, AIMIM MLA Imtiaz Jaleel took the family to the police commissioner, who assured them some action will be taken.

After that, says Qadri, Jaleel hasn't had the time to meet him. Nor has any other politician.

The Muslim Numainda Council helped Quadri file a petition asking that an FIR be filed against the police who shot at Harris.

The court has now sent a notice to the police, he says.

By now it's 1.30 pm. I must leave, for at 2 pm, is Asaduddin Owaisi's "open discussion" with intellectuals of Aurangabad.

Quaiad Naqeeb e Millat Sher e Hind Asaduddin Owaisi held three padyatras in the Muslim areas of Aurangabad, stopping here and there to persuade voters.

Neither Nasser nor the Qadris featured in his journeys.

JYOTI PUNWANI
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