Naseem Khan and Pinki Kumari got married in the summer of 2015, two years after communal riots in their district of Muzaffarnagar killed at least 50 people. Scared for their lives, the couple relocated to Visakhapatnam, where their son, Abdullah, was born on July 17 last year. Last month, they returned to their village to celebrate Eid.
On Monday afternoon, Naseem, 22, was returning home with a birthday cake for his son when he was attacked, allegedly by his in-laws. He was beaten up with sticks, and then shot twice — in the stomach and forehead. He died at 1:15 pm, minutes after he was shot.
Naseem and Pinki used to be neighbours. “We studied in the same school. A few years ago, my parents came to know about us.
They locked me in the house and my brother beat me up. They wanted me to marry someone else,” said Pinki.
In the summer of 2015, Pinki, then 18 years old, fled from her parent’s house and went to Visakhapatnam, where Naseem was earning a living by selling clothes. The couple returned to Muzaffarnagar and got married.
“It’s been barely two years since they got married. It was a court marriage. There were no ceremonies. Soon after they got married, they returned to Visakhapatnam,” said Naseem’s cousin, Nazar Mohammad. Pinki converted to Islam and changed her name to Ayesha.
For the last two years, they did not return home. “Initially, my parents and brothers used to threaten my in-laws. They would send messages through other villagers. We celebrated all the festivals away from home,” said Pinki.
But as the months passed, the threats stopped. So, this year, the couple decided to celebrate Eid in their village. “We arrived here a day before Eid, on June 25. We were supposed to return to Visakhapatnam within a few days. But we decided to celebrate our son’s first birthday here, so we extended our stay. We would have left for Visakhapatnam today,” said Pinki.
Nazar Mohammad claimed that he was with Naseem at the time of the attack. “Naseem and his 14-year-old brother were on his motorcycle. I was on a motorcycle behind them. We had gone to make arrangements for his son’s birthday, and Naseem had got a cake,” he said.
“At around 1:10 pm, a man who was hiding in the sugarcane fields attacked Naseem with a stick… Three others rushed to the road and threw a cycle to stop Naseem’s motorcycle. They beat him up first. When a crowd started gathering, they fired at least three-four shots at him. They were coming towards us, but when they saw that people had gathered, they fled from the spot,” he claimed.
Police said an FIR, under IPC sections relating to murder and rioting — 302, 147, 148, 159 and 506 — against Pinki’s father Rajesh, brother Pradeep, cousin Sonu, and another relative Nitu has been registered.
“The FIR has been registered on the basis of the complaint filed by Naseem’s cousin against four persons. The accused are absconding but we are conducting raids and they will be nabbed soon. A post-mortem has been conducted and the body has been returned to the family,” said Muzaffarnagar SP Ajay Kumar Sahdev.
About 2 km from Naseem’s house in Bhokarhedi’s Pathan colony, his in-laws’ new house has been locked since Monday. Pinki claimed she spoke to her brother on Monday afternoon, after she heard of her husband’s death.
“I asked him why he had killed my husband. It was not my husband’s fault. I had run away from my parent’s house. I asked him how could he not think of my one-year-old son while killing my husband. My brother said he would kill me and my son… I want them behind bars. How can the police not find them? They must be at some relative’s house or hiding in the fields,” she said.
Residents of Bhokarhedi area of Muzaffarnagar district said such incidents have rarely taken place. Bhopa police station, where the FIR was registered, has a temple on its right and a mosque on its left. “Even during the Muzaffarnagar riots, this area was not affected by communal tension,” said Atiq Khan, a resident.