When Najumunissa (35) decided to leave her village Hallikhed three months ago and shift to Bidar, all she wanted was a better education for her nine-year-old daughter. She is now in jail after being arrested on January 30 on charges of sedition after her daughter, a Class 5 student, spoke against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in a school play.
On Wednesday, the Principal and District Sessions Court at Bidar scheduled her plea for bail for January 11, according to her lawyer Narayan Ganesh. For her daughter, who has nobody else to look after her, it is a long wait to reunite with her mother.
It was a big decision for Najumunissa to leave the village. Her husband M Aijazuddin, a farmer, died seven years ago of cancer, and she raised their daughter, then two years old, alone. “I am illiterate and have been struggling to make ends meet since my husband’s death. But I don’t want my daughter to suffer like me. I want to give her a good education. My daughter is good at studies but the village does not have a good school so I brought her to Bidar,” she told The Indian Express at the Bidar District Jail.
After her husband’s death, Najumunissa gave away their three acres of land on lease for Rs 15-20,000 per annum. “Me and my daughter just survived on whatever little money we had in the village,” she said.
In Bidar, Najumunissa does household work and also helps out at the Shaheen school where her daughter studies, to supplement her meagre income. The school has hired a lawyer on her behalf.
After her husband’s death, Najumunissa grew apart from her in-laws and lived for some time with her mother in the village but later began living separately, according to the owner of the house in Maniar Taleem colony in Bidar where she has taken a room on rent. Najumunissa also has a few distant aunts living in the village but they are poor and illiterate and have not come to Bidar to take care of her daughter.
“We have rented out a spare room to Najumunissa and her daughter. They appear to be very poor and do not have any possessions. We are taking care of her daughter as there is nobody else. She does not sleep well at night. She wakes up at 2 or 3 am and calls out for her mother, cries and falls silent,” said the wife of the property’s owner.
The headmistress of Shaheen Urdu Primary School, Fareeda Begum Baig, who was arrested along with Najmunissa, suffers from hypertension. The 52-year-old mother of two daughters started teaching 30 years ago at various schools in Bidar before joining the primary school about 10 years ago, according to her husband Mirza Haider Ali Baig. “I do odd jobs as a mechanic and do not earn much. The family depends on Fareeda’s income. We are not well off and now we are in deeper trouble due to this case,” Baig said.
Fareeda’s colleagues at the school described her as a very gentle and compassionate teacher and headmistress. “In my five years here, I have never seen her raise her voice. She is very popular among the children and is a fine teacher,” G Qudoos, a teacher, said.
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