Hours after 23-year-old Saifullah, a B.Com dropout, was killed by ATS personnel in a house on the outskirts of Lucknow, his family refused to accept his body saying “jo apne desh ka nahin hua, woh hamara kya hoga” (we cannot have anything to do with one who could not be loyal to his country). In a room of their house in Manohar Nagar in Kanpur — it has a broken sofa, two wooden takhat, a refrigerator, a television and a kitchenette in one corner — the family watched the ATS operation to flush out Saifullah until late Tuesday night. His brother Khalid, who was contacted by ATS in the evening to persuade him to step out of the house, was on the phone for over 70 minutes but “there was no response except the sound of gunshots”.
Two-and-half months ago, Saifullah left home to “look for a job in Mumbai” against the wishes of the family. His father Sartaj and Khalid regret having beaten Saifullah for his decision to move to Mumbai, where “someone had promised him a work visa for Saudi Arabia”. That was the last they saw him.
“Marne wala mar gaya. Uski laash yahan laake ab aur tamasha nahin banwana. Kal ko rallyan niklengi, neta aane lagenge, zindabad-murdabad lagne lagega (He is dead. If we bring his body here, rallies will be held, leaders will arrive and there will be sloganeering),” said Khalid who works in the sales division of a leather factory in Jajmau and draws a salary of Rs 15,000 per month. “It is the family’s decision,” he said.
Sartaj too works in the records section of a leather factory. Of his four children — there’s another son and daughter — Saifullah was the most educated and he had high hopes from him. He wanted his son to complete his education and not go abroad.
Khalid said: “All of us wanted him to finish his studies first. But he kept saying there are no opportunities here. He did a course in computers and left home with his passport, Aadhaar, voter ID and driving licence. He said if nothing else, he would earn money as a driver in Saudi Arabia.”
On Tuesday, Khalid got a call from the ATS around 5.30 pm. He was told to persuade his brother to surrender. “I was headed to the market and could not understand what they were saying. I was shaken. They told me they were putting my phone on speaker. I begged and cried for 70 minutes, but there was no response except the sound of gunshots”.
Outside the house, neighbours discussed Saifullah. He was a “panch baar ka namazi” (one who prayed five times a day) and “never picked a fight with anyone” in the locality, one said. “Aaj kal kuchh pata nahin chalta, par bada nek parivar hai (You can’t tell these days, but it’s a respectable family),” another said.