Grieving mothers take on '56-inch chest'

The two mothers -- whose sons are dead or missing -- said the Modi government had freed their minds of at least one emotion — fear

By Arnab Ganguly in Mumbai
  • Published 13.01.19, 3:10 AM
  • Updated 13.01.19, 3:10 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Saira (left) and Fatima Nafees at the meeting in Mumbai. The Telegraph picture

Fatima Nafees has been waiting for over two years for her missing son. Saira’s son is dead.

On Saturday, the two mothers said the Narendra Modi government had freed their minds of at least one emotion — fear.

“One good thing that has happened in the Modi raj is that there is no fear inside us any longer,” Fatima told a gathering.

Her son, Najeeb Ahmed, then a 27-year-old student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, disappeared in October 2016 after a hostel brawl with members of the ABVP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student arm.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which probed Najeeb’s disappearance, closed the file in October 2018.

“I dare Narendra Modi to meet me once, look into my eyes and tell me nothing wrong was done with my son,” Fatima said. “This regime is not going to return to power. The 56-inch chest will deflate.”

The Badaun resident was in Mumbai on Saturday to address a gathering at the Haj House along with Saira.

Saira’s son, Junaid, a 16-year-old from Faridabad, Haryana, was assaulted and stabbed on a Delhi-Mathura train ahead of Id in June 2017.

“All the six (accused) are out on bail. There is talk that the main accused will contest the elections. If we don’t speak up now, he will get the ticket. If we get scared, they will get the opportunity to scare us even more. We have to speak up against them,” Saira said.

Junaid’s brothers, who were assaulted too, have said their attackers flung their skullcaps and pulled their beards, calling Muslims “cow-eaters” and “anti-nationals”.

All the six suspects, including the main accused, Naresh Kumar, are out on bail.

Amit Jani, a Noida-based businessman who has floated an outfit called the Uttar Pradesh Navanirman Sena, has said that Naresh and some others accused of killing Muslims since 2014, would be fielded for the Lok Sabha polls.

“Everyone is scared,” Saira said on Saturday. “Such a time has come that everyone thinks if only my life is saved, but none will remain safe under this government.”

Both Saira and Fatima — who was dragged by Delhi police personnel while she was talking to mediapersons outside Delhi High Court in October 2017 — stressed on educating children. “I am not educated, my husband is a carpenter. But my three sons were given education. Najeeb went to JNU. My daughter is also studying. Our children have to get taalim (education) and reach the top posts for us to get justice,” Fatima said.

Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad said the current dispensation had given rise to unlikely heroes. “The real opposition to this government has come from women like Fatima Nafees and Saira and students like Rohith Vemula, Umar Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Richa Singh. They are from different parties with different ideological bent but have come together against an oppressive regime,” she said.

Rohith, a Hyderabad Central University student, had committed suicide in January 2016 over alleged harassment. The suicide became a rallying point for a student movement in the country.

JNU student leaders Khaild and Kanhaiya had to spend time in custody over sedition charges before getting bail.

Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said if his party returned to power, the Najeeb case would be re-opened.

“It was a mistake to let Narendra Modi go unpunished in 2002. The same mistake will not happen again. All cases of atrocities against Dalits, minorities and lynchings will be probed and justice given to the victims. The Najeeb case will be re-investigated,” Nirupam said.