There are only two words that leave Saira Khan’s lips — Allah and Junaid. The mehendi on her hands has faded beyond recognition. “Mehendi uss din rachai thi jiss din usne Quran khatam ki thi,” she says, breaking down.
Saira’s son Junaid Khan was stabbed to death in a Mathura-bound train on Thursday evening as he was returning home to Khandawli after a day of Eid shopping in Delhi. The mob that attacked him allegedly mocked his skull cap and called him a beef eater.
Outside their home, Junaid’s brothers — Ismail, Faisal and Hashim — wear black armbands as they head out for prayers on Eid morning. Grief hangs in the air, as does fear. As their father Jalaluddin begins walking towards the mosque, sympathetic eyes of the neighbourhood settle on him.
Once the prayer ends, the men gather in a field opposite the mosque and tie black bands on their arms. “We will only pray, not celebrate Eid. How can we? These black bands are a display of our sorrow; we have got support from our village and other villages as well,” says Hashim, 19, who too was stabbed in the train. Junaid’s brother Shaqir, who was stabbed five times, is yet to return home as he is recuperating at the AIIMS Trauma Centre.
For the last three days, Junaid’s neighbour Mohsin, who was with him in the train on Thursday, has avoided meeting his friend’s mother.
On Eid, he stands at their door, and Saira screams ‘Junaid’ before hugging him. “I was with Junaid, I carried his body. I didn’t want to see his mother deliberately because it would have caused her pain. I went to Delhi instead to meet Shaqir, who is still in the hospital. Today is the first time I have met her since the incident,” says Mohsin.
There are no celebrations in the village — no decorations on the street, no new clothes or jubilant greetings. “We bought new clothes for the children to wear on Eid but we haven’t unpacked them. This is not a celebration anymore,” says Hanif Khan, 36, who lives near Junaid’s house.
Most houses in the village are a hub of discussion, with many recounting the “peace-loving nature of the Khan brothers”. At a shop nearby, Aslam, packing pakodas for a buyer, says, “Every year on Eid, I sell a quintal of pakodas. But this year, it’s barely 20 kg. No one is happy; how can we ever be? Such a tragedy has struck the village.” For the first time in many decades, seviyan kheer has not been prepared in Aslam’s house.
As 38-year-old electrician Qutub-ud-din walks aimlessly in the lane, he notices the grim atmosphere and says, “Har
Eid parinde ki tarah udte thay yahan bachche; aaj kitna ajeeb lag raha hai.”