A distressed Shamma Kausar talks about all that her family has had to go through over the past fortnight. Her husband Siraj Wahaab had to spend three days in jail. Her sons, 10, 8 and 7, were taken away temporarily to a government-run boys’ rehabilitation centre.
Holding her children close, the 30-year-old swears Wahaab had chained them for their own good. “I don’t know how parents bring their children on the right track when they follow wrong ways.”
On their part, the parents add, they have tried everything.
Wahaab, 34, earns barely Rs 6,000 a month painting buildings. Kausar works as a domestic help, which gets her Rs 2,000 a month apart from free accommodation. The family of five shares the single-room space in Parangipalya in South-East Bengaluru.
Kausar and Wahaab earlier sent their sons to a madrasa, in Kallahalli, 18 km away, where they studied and stayed. But they kept running away from there.
Smiling sheepishly, Mohammed Mazar, 8, says they missed their parents. “Also, some students used to beat us up. Whenever we got a chance, we fled,” adds the eldest brother, Mohammed Mansoor.
Malik-e-Rihan, the youngest, says he did whatever the elder siblings told him.
Whenever she complained to the madrasa authorities about her sons being beaten up, Kausar says, they told her such scuffles were common at school. This summer, after they came home for the holidays, the boys refused to go back to Kallahalli.
“So we admitted them to the Government Urdu School, Parangipalya. A few weeks ago, somebody suggested that we also enrol them in the madrasa attached to the school,” the mother says.
The boys joined the madrasa just a week before the chaining episode. Run by local Muslim youths on the premises of the Masjid-e-Hussainia, the madrasa provides free food and boarding to poor students. It has 14 students, all of whom also attend the Government Urdu School. The school has Classes I to VI, run from three rooms.
Admitted in Classes III, II and I, the three brothers proved as difficult to keep hold of, say both Wahaab and their madrasa teacher Mubarak Moulasaab, 25.
Moulasaab says Mansoor, Mazar and Rihan went missing often, both from the school and the madrasa.
In July first week, the boys tried to flee to their paternal grandparents’ place. They took Rs 500 kept near the television set at home and took a bus to Basavanagudi, 12 km away.
“We wanted to go to Kolar, where our grandparents stay. But we stopped to have snacks, juice and ice-cream, and realised we had spent all our money. An uncle found us crying on the road and informed the police. They brought us back home,” Mazar says.
Later, a provisions store owner in Parangipalya complained that the three had pocketed Rs 100 from his store. It was then that Wahaab decided he had had enough.
On July 27, he took a chain to the madrasa, tied his three sons to it, put a lock and gave the key to Moulasaab. When police came on July 29, after some locals informed them, the teacher was arrested along with Wahaab. They were released on bail on August 1.
“I didn’t know chaining children was an offence,” says Wahaab. “I was very disturbed due to the complaints… I thought chaining them for a few days would be a good lesson.”
He gave the key to Moulasaab so that the teacher could release them whenever needed, including to go to the toilet.
“Wahaab is illiterate and did not know what he was doing was wrong. The teacher had been hired a week earlier and he too did not inform us. We wouldn’t have allowed it if we knew. Our rivals misused the chaining to bring a bad name to the madrasa,” says Fairoz Khan, a member of the Naujawan youth group that runs the madrasa.
But even Fairoz understands how perturbed the parents were. “Wahaab and his wife had to go to the police station during Ramzan once as their children were suspected of having stolen a mobile. It was later found they hadn’t done anything,” he says.
Prakash K, who takes tuitions in the area, says the three brothers were not bad at studies. “They are fast learners. I would teach them English. But they are very naughty. They would leave school early and their parents would roam the area looking for them.”
After police took the children away to a rehabilitation centre, the youths who run the madrasa helped Kausar and Wahaab get them back.
Now at home, the children say they were “not interested” in classes at school or at the madrasa. “So we would leave as early as possible and go to the parks nearby to play.”
The 10-year-old has started demanding that his parents shift the three of them to a government Kannada-medium school closer home, saying they didn’t want to go to the Parangipalya school any more.
But Kausar is unsure. “We thought our children would learn Kannada, English, Urdu and Arabic at the school and madrasa. There is not much space in our small house, and that’s why we put them in the madrasa.”
Wahaab fears his children may end up like him. “I don’t want them to struggle. I am illiterate and survive from day to day. But my children are very naughty and don’t sit still in the classroom. I only wanted to scare them by chaining them… I can only beg them to study properly now,” he says.
Mazar, who is listening to his father, says “many uncles, including police uncles” have told them their father had to go to jail because of them. Promising to behave, he says, “My father and mother work to earn money for our sake. All three of us will study properly… Kanditha (definitely).”