Junaid Khan will never return to collect his certificate. He will also never wake up before dawn at Jamia Arabia Faiz-e Subhania and spend the entire day memorising verses from the Quran. Fifteen-year-old Khan is dead. On a Mathura-bound train, a group of strangers allegedly made references to his food habits. They called him a “beef-eater” and stabbed him to death. At the madrasa, he resided in for the past year, in Mewat, Haryana, all he ate was dalia for breakfast.
Junaid lived in the room closest to the loudspeakers. Or maybe he didn’t. Zafaruddin Qasmi, the principal at the madrasa, seemed unsure. There are 174 other boys who live here too, often sharing the mats and sleeping in neat rows. But if Qasmi’s memory served him right, then Khan resided in the last room closest to the stairs leading up to the loudspeakers.
The room had a small table fan atop a cooler, Islamic texts, spanners, stereo equipment and car batteries. It is the room from which azaan is recited to call Muslims for prayer every morning. “He was a very kind boy. He stayed out of trouble and kept to his studies,” Qasmi told The Sunday Express.
The old man had heard that Khan was no more from one of the teachers at his school — who received a call from Junaid’s family. “What has happened is extremely tragic. No religion ever propagates such hatred…”
A year ago, Khan packed simple clothes — white kurta-pyjamas and a skull cap — and made the nearly two-hour journey to Mewat from his hometown of Ballabgarh.
He was there to become a “hafiz” — someone who has mastered the verses and understanding of the Quran. Qasmi said there are further studies to become an Imam that take up to 8 years, which, Junaid could have undertaken had he been alive.
Like many of the other boys, he too had heard that the teacher at this particular madrasa was reputed. Since then, Junaid had woken up each day at 4 am, freshened up and sat cross-legged on the thin mat lining the long corridor at his school. He would study till half-past-seven, break for a 30-minute breakfast, and then get back to his texts. A similar routine would follow post-lunch.
At 5 pm, the boys would play cricket or roam around like the cows in the village. There are plenty of cows in Mewat, their milk travelling as far as Delhi to be supplied to customers.
“Milk production here is part of daily work, but now we are having serious problems with buying and selling good breeds,” Shaukat Ali, principal of a nearby madrasa for kids much younger than Junaid, said. “Even if you had the right papers like Pehlu Khan, you get lynched,” he added.
“What has happened with Junaid is extremely unfortunate,” said Ali. “This incident reveals the ‘soch’ or mentality of Hindustan. Even if one person feels strong enough to commit such an act, it says a lot about the situation in this country.”
At quarter-past-five on Saturday evening, in a PWD Rest House in Nuh, Haryana’s Mewat district, a group of Muslim men took a joint resolution to wear black bands on their arms while performing namaz on Eid this year. The gathering of around 40 men, many of them lawyers in the district and also from neighbouring Rajasthan, had shown up for what was a spontaneous meeting to condemn the “hate crime” against 15-year-old Junaid.