“Allah ko kya jawab deta mein qayamat ke din (How would I have faced God on the day of judgment)?” Shoulders slouched, the 50-year-old looks every inch a defeated man. On September 8, he had turned in his teenaged son, accused of killing a boy at a madrasa in Haryana’s Nuh district where the two studied together.
Sitting on a cot in the courtyard outside his house in a village in Nuh, he adds, after several deep breaths, “I could have sent my son away, hidden him for some time…par upar wale se kaise chupata mein (But how would I have hidden him from God)?”
On September 5, two days after the boy went missing from the madrasa, his body, partially covered in sand and a wooden ply kept on his face and body, was recovered from a room inside a mosque on the premises. Six days later, police apprehended the teenager with the probe revealing that he allegedly killed the younger child as he was desperate to get out of the madrasa. Police say he hoped that a “big incident” would lead to the madrasa being shut and he would get to go home.
The incident has left behind a trail of emotions – a grieving mother struggling to come to terms with her son’s death, a father bound by his sense of duty and his faith, and a maulvi anguished by the events of the last fortnight.
The father of the accused said that the boy, the youngest of his sons, confided in him when he visited the madrasa for the second time last week.
“On the day the child’s body was found, I had gone to the madrasa, but my son did not say much then. I did not bring him back. But later, he got scared by the frequent police visits to the madrasa and told me he had killed the child. He said he did not want to study and hoped the madrasa would shut down if he did something this drastic. I told him he had ruined a family,” said the father, adding that he then brought his son home.
“I told him to bid farewell to his mother and siblings. He took a shower, said his goodbyes and, after half an hour, I took him to the police station…I hope I have done the right thing. Had I not turned him in, police would have harassed innocent people,” he said.
The father says the teenager was earlier enrolled in a school in the village, but dropped out – “he was never interested in studying and wouldn’t attend classes” – following which, seven months ago, the family enrolled him in the madrasa.
“I put him in the madrasa so he would learn something from the scholars there. But a month ago, he ran away from there. I sent him back and told him to focus on his studies,” says the father. “All my other children have studied in the village school or a madrasa… He resisted when we sent him to the madrasa, but don’t all children do that? We did not think he would kill someone over this. When I visited him at the observation home (where the teenager is currently lodged), he asked me why I had reported him to the police. I didn’t have anything to tell him.”
Over 10 km away, at the home of the victim’s family, his mother is struggling to make sense of the events of the last few days that led to the death of her youngest.
Sitting in her one-room brick shack that she now shares with her three daughters, the mother of the boy says she enrolled her son at the madrasa in July last year at the behest of the village haji. Her husband, a labourer, had died of an illness a few years ago.
“He was excited about learning languages… he never complained. He told me he had made friends at the madrasa and that they all would play discus throw in the evenings. He had come home for Eid two months ago… I recently sent him a stitched kurta-pajama. This madrasa is far from our village, but I sent him there as I thought he would be safe, but…,”she said in between sobs.
What has eluded the mother so far is a sense of closure as she wonders: “Why would a student kill my son over such a trivial reason? I find it hard to believe. This seems to be a conspiracy to hide the real culprit.”
Over three days after the boy’s body was discovered on September 5, Nuh police detained several suspects for questioning, among them the maulvi, who is the caretaker of the madrasa, his sons who worked there, a teacher and two shopkeepers.
But the police were in for a surprise when, on September 8, the father of the accused walked into the police station to hand over his son.
A police officer who is part of the probe said, “Before the boy’s father got him to the station, the probe was headed in a different direction. None of the students studying at the madrasa were seen as suspects. During questioning, the juvenile accused said he had no interest in studies and that he had told his parents several times that he wanted to return home, but they coerced him into staying at the madrasa. He said he was troubled by all this. He claimed he zeroed in on the victim as he was very gullible. The two would often play together. So it was easy for him to take the younger child into confidence, lure him to the room and overpower him.”
Back at the madrasa, it’s all quiet. The madrasa is temporarily shut and the students, all from neighbouring villages, are now back home.
A cot and a few benches have been pushed to a corner, next to a blackboard with Urdu scrawls. “Chhutti kar diya hai. Sab apne bachon ko darr ke mare ghar le gye (The madrasa has been shut. Everyone took their children home out of fear),” said the caretaker at the dargah. “This is a sacred place. Such an incident shouldn’t have happened here.”
The maulvi at the madrasa said, “I was responsible for the safety of the children. All the children lived and played together. Bachche chhoti-chhoti shararat karte hain (Children often indulge in small mischief), but I do not know what prompted him to do this…I am deeply pained. Both the children were my students.”