|Baby Afreen in hospital in Bangalore, (below) mother Reshma Banu. (Bangalore News Photos)
Bangalore, April 9: Baby Afreen’s only fault was she was not born a boy.
So today, the three-month old is battling for life in hospital with cigarette burns on her body and a swelling in her brain.
Doctors suspect her alcoholic father had banged her head against a wall, furious that his wife Reshma Banu had not delivered a boy.
Reshma today sat outside the ICU of the government-run Vanivilas Hospital here, waiting for the critical 72 hours to pass. “I still don’t understand why a man would do such an act,” the 19-year-old sobbed, unable to comprehend how a father could batter his child.
Saturday’s assault came barely a week after a man in Andhra Pradesh bludgeoned his unborn daughter to death inside her mother’s womb with an iron rod.
The assault apparently followed a sex-determination test that revealed his wife was, after all, not going to give birth to a boy as a godman had predicted.
Afreen was taken off the ventilator today, but doctors said the swelling in her brain was a cause for concern.
“It’s the swelling in her brain that is a major cause for worry,” said S. Gowda, a senior doctor attending to her in the ICU.
“The injuries are obviously due to assaults that were too much for even a bigger child to handle,” said Padmavathi, another doctor in the team taking care of the battered infant.
Doctors said the burn injuries were inflicted with a lighted cigarette.
Her father Omar Farooq was arrested late on Sunday night. The 25-year-old, an unskilled worker in a paint shop in the densely populated Shivajinagar area in the heart of the Karnataka capital, is said to be an alcoholic who regularly abused his wife and child.
He faces charges of attempt to murder and female infanticide. Sources said after thrashing the baby with his hands, Farooq had even tried to suffocate her with a pillow.
Afreen was rushed to Bowring Hospital and later to Vanivilas Hospital after she slipped into coma on Sunday.
Afreen’s maternal grandmother Majboorbi couldn’t hold back tears as she stood outside the ICU. “How could he beat up a baby so sweet?” said the mother of four daughters who has no doubt who the culprit is. “Even my daughter has endured a lot since he just wanted money and always harassed her for more dowry.”
Although her daughter is still critical, Reshma will attend a hearing before the state child welfare committee tomorrow to recount the horror she and her baby went through.
Nina Nayak, of the welfare panel, said a five-member bench would hear Reshma and record her statement.