Muslim mom fears new chapter in 12-yr-old’s life: marriage to Hindu

His ‘Veena Ma’ says he loves cricket. His ‘Sunday Ammi’ about how he rushes out to ride the cycle the moment he arrives.

Written by Ujjwala Nayudu | Ahmedabad | Published: February 23, 2012 2:15:51 am

His ‘Veena Ma’ says he loves cricket. His ‘Sunday Ammi’ about how he rushes out to ride the cycle the moment he arrives. It’s a marvel,they agree,that Vivek aka Muzaffar Sheikh has found time to be a child. Now 12,the “lost boy” of Gulberg Society is in the process of getting a “bride”.

It’s a custom among his adopted family of ‘Devipujaks’ to start looking for a bride for boys while they are very young. That makes Jebunissa,the woman who gave birth to him,very scared. Once he is married within Hindus,she fears,Muzaffar will never come back to her.

To many,the story of Muzaffar — the only one of the 31 who went missing after the Gulberg Society massacre to have been found — is one of hope. Jebunissa is not so sure. She found him after six years of desperate search,now living as the son of another loving mother,Veena Patni. While a paternity test confirmed Muzaffar was the Sheikhs’ son,Veena is fighting in court to keep him.

“I sulk when I see him with them. He is crazy about Veena,he doesn’t want to leave her. Sometimes I think it would have been better if we had not found him,” says a tearful Jebunissa.

As per court orders in the custody battle,the boy lives with Veena as ‘Vivek’,and spends weekends with biological parents Jebunissa and Mohammad Salim Sheikh as ‘Muzaffar’.

Fondly called “Muzzu”,he was barely two and a half years’ old when he had got lost in 2002 as his parents tried to escape rioters. Vikram Patni,who ran an anganwadi in Saraspur,reportedly found him standing clueless at the Chamanpura crossroads. Sources say Patni first took him to a constable,who apparently told him to keep the child till his real parents were found. Vikram took the boy to his wife Veena,who refused to give him away to an orphanage or an NGO and decided to raise him as Vivek. Vikram is now dead,while Veena denies the bit about the constable completely.

The Sheikhs had reported Muzaffar missing at the Meghaninagar Police Station immediately. However,it was only in 2008 that he was located with the help of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and Citizens for Justice and Peace.

Veena,who makes a living selling fish,says Vivek is the only reason she is still alive. “He is my son. I wish I had actually delivered him. At least these questions wouldn’t have come up again and again,” she says. Vivek too is attached to her,only eating when she is around.

Looking at Vivek,who has just returned from school and rushed out to play cricket,throwing his bag on the side,elder brother Nayan says: “We don’t expose him to everyone because we want to get him married soon. If the word spreads around,we fear we won’t get a good bride. He will be 13 years’ old soon,we will begin the bride hunt and get him married off.”

Veena’s mother Rajvi says initially they were scared that the community wouldn’t let them keep a Muslim boy. “On February 29 (2002),Veena had come to my house with Vivek. I decided to keep her and the baby at my home.”

Now,every Saturday,Salim comes to fetch Vivek at Veena’s fish shop and takes him to their home at Vatva. An embroidery worker,Jebunissa clings on to these visits: “Muzzu has begun to enjoy staying with us,has made friends in the neighbourhood. He has becomes a friend of my two other sons too. I desperately wait for him. The moment he arrives,he goes out for biking… he loves to ride cycles here.”

Last month,she asked Muzaffar if he would live with them and visit Veena instead once a week. He has sought time to think over it,she says,her eyes shining.

If the Patnis get Muzaffar married,all will be lost,she and her husband fear. They believe that Muzaffar stands no chance of being accepted in Devipujaks,and that if this battle continues for long,he may not be accepted among Muslims too.

Muzaffar aka Vivek himself — a representative of all that divided Ahmedabad that day 10 years ago and all that never will — himself says little after years of being tutored to not open up to strangers.

Ask him if he likes cricket,and he looks at brother Nayan for a signal. When he nods,Vivek replies: “I love it. I want to play for the Indian team.”

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