Feature: “Tortured our child,” says kin of 8-year-old Rizwan Qureshi

Saher Hiba Khan

On 8 September, a large group from the Hindu community was taking out the yearly Mahavir Akhara rally through Barharia’s Purani Bazaar— a Muslim dominated locality in Bihar’s Siwan district. At around 4 pm that evening, the mob started pelting stones, shouting Islamophobic slogans and playing obscene songs in front of the Masjid.

When the force came in to control the situation, instead of arresting the perpetrators, they arrested people from inside the mosque who had just offered evening prayer. This included an 8-year-old boy named Rizwan Qureshi and his 70-year-old grandfather Mohammad Yasin.

The 8-year-old boy and his grandfather were released on bail on 14 September, after 7 days of their arrest.

Maktoob spoke to the family about their ordeal.

“It’s a nightmare for any mother to have her child snatched away from her. These 7 days without him were hell for me. My Rizwan was kept all alone in a dark cell for two days at the Barharia police station and then sent to the court with his grandfather. They both were tied down in a rope, even had ropes tied to their stomach. Just imagine how confused and scared my boy must have been. After his arrest that night, I went the very next morning to meet him at the station and got him some breakfast, but they didn’t let me meet him and neither gave him the tiffin I had prepared for him. Afterwards, he was sent to the Juvenile home. I met him there for barely 5-10 minutes, he was crying so much. He was wailing like an infant when we brought him back,” Rizwan’s Mother told Maktoob.

Qureshi is in class 4th grade and goes to Iqra Public School.

Rizwan’s mother said that when they arrested Rizwan from the mosque, they beat him continuously and kept asking him his age. When he told them that he was eight, they refused to believe him and claimed that he was 13-year-old.

The family were trying their best to prove that he is eight, they had official documents, but the police were hell-bent that Rizwan is 13.

Upon being asked if the family will register any case, Rizwan’s mother simply declined and said they can’t afford a lawyer.

“We’re just happy that our boy is back. It is more than enough for us. We don’t want to stretch the matter as it can threaten his future,” she said to Maktoob.

Yasin and Rizwan were among the 35 persons booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code dealing with rioting, attempt to murder, assault, disturbing a religious assembly, causing grievous hurt, provoking breach of peace and criminal conspiracy. Out of 35, 25 are Muslims.

70-year-old Mohammad Yasin, Rizwan’s grandfather, was the sarpanch of Barharia 5 years ago. He’s also a member of the peace committee of the Barharia Thana.

He told Maktoob how during any religious rally that goes through the locality, some policemen are always there to monitor the whole thing.

“It was after asr namaz that the mob started pelting, we ran inside the mosque and the police took shelter inside the building with us. There were barely 5-6 constables, but of course, they couldn’t control the mob. They made some calls and the force came in to control the situation, everyone started running, it was a stampede-like situation whereas we didn’t get the chance to get away so we stayed inside. Till that time the maghrib prayer time had started, so we all thought to offer the namaz and then go to our homes. But right after we had finished offering namaz, the force came in and arrested us. They beat up my grandchild very badly,” claims Mohammad Yasin.

Yasin told Maktoob that when the force was arresting people from inside the mosque, the police on duty had witnessed that it was the mob that had started the pelting, and still didn’t bother to save them.

“They kept shouting that we instigated the crowd, that we started the pelting, and that we are the mastermind of this chaos. After a lot of pressure from the authorities and outrage from the public against our arrests. I thank Allah for this because in such cases it takes ages to get bail,” he added. Courtesy Maktoob Media

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