Zakir absent. Mehraan absent. Mehtab absent. So are most Muslim students of Bisara primary school. Barring a few, most Muslim students have been absent since the school reopened on October 5.
The only government-run primary school in the village was shut for a week after Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, was allegedly beaten to death by a mob following rumours about his family storing and consuming beef.
Out of 129 students in this primary school, 32 are Muslims. On Thursday, only three Muslim students were among the 79 present.
Kanchan Rai, principal of the school, said, “Overall, students are coming in, but the Muslim children are refraining from attending classes. A day earlier, there was only one Muslim student in the school.”
Most of the 30 Muslim households in the village of nearly 10,000 people are a short distance away from the school.
The children in Ali Jaan’s family left the village following Akhlaq’s killing. Her grandson is a student in the school.
She said the family was waiting for the “right time” for them to return. “We sent the kids to our relatives’ house. Once we feel the environment in the village is safe for children, we will bring them back.”
A few metres away, brothers Mehraan and Mehtab’s house is locked. The Class I students left the village with their parents following the mob violence. Their grandmother stayed put.
“There is a marriage in the village on October 11. All have planned to come for the marriage and then they will stay here. They went to their relatives’ house because of the fear,” she said.
One Muslim couple, however, has been sending their two daughters to the school. For Salim and Phulo, there is no option but to send Farheen and Samreen to study. “We are not educated, but we want our children to go to school. We can’t afford to keep them at home,” said Phulo.
She, however, added there was an underlying fear people were not talking about. “Recently, some children said certain hurtful sentences to my children. When they complained, I didn’t know how to react,” she said.
Sanjeev Rana, the village pradhan said, “Some of the families who had left do not know about the school reopening.” He added the situation was calm in Bisara.