Bhaiyya ho sake to mujhe maaf kar dena. Mere paas koi raasta nahin tha, main Mumbai ja raha hoon. Main ab ek kaamyaab singer bankar aap ko online nazar aaunga (Bhaiya, please forgive me. I had no other option, I am going to Mumbai. Now you will see me online as a successful singer).”
This is from the letter left behind by a 15-year-old Muslim boy from Meerut, who went missing along with a classmate on Teachers’ Day, sparking off charges of ‘love jihad’, communal tension in Meerut district, and a desperate hunt by the police till they were tracked a day later in Jaipur.
Police say the two Class X students are nothing more than good friends. “There is no angle of love. The girl has recorded a statement before the police. She said she went with the boy of her own will and that the boy did not take any advantage of her,” says Vinod Kumar Singh, SHO, Nauchandi Police Station.
With an FIR filed against him under Section 363 (kidnapping) of the IPC, the boy has been sent by a magisterial court to a correctional home in Surajkund, Meerut. The 14-year-old girl is expected to record her statement before the court.
A day after news of the two students going missing had spread, right-wing protesters had hit the streets in Meerut, holding a road blockade, vandalising and robbing two shops owned by Muslims and attacking the house of a Muslim, to put pressure on the police to arrest the boy.
The youngest of eight siblings, including three sisters, the 15-year-old boy apparently fled home only to become a singer. With their father away in Maharashtra working as a carpenter, it’s the boy’s eldest brother, 30, who takes care of the family. A carpenter, he barely manages to provide for the family.
Says a sister, “Our mother would scold him and tell him to be more religious and read the namaaz. Uski baat humne kabhi suni nahin… uske gaane ka shauk poora nahin kiya. Aur ab aise din aa gaye ki usko ghar chodna padha (We never listened to him… didn’t fulfill his passion for singing. Things came to such a state that he had to leave home).”
The sister adds she had gifted him a mike on Eid in July and earlier a keyboard. “But for a year he had been asking me to get him admitted into a music school. I couldn’t.”
The family has recovered a memory card, which has video recordings of him singing. “He used to record the songs on my mobile, then transfer these to a memory card,” says a brother.
At one point though, the boy wanted to join IIT. “He scored 91 per cent in Class IX. He said he wanted to take tuitions and join IIT so that he could earn Rs 1 lakh a month. He always dreamt big,” says his sister.
Police say the boy’s friend too was good in academics, and the private school they studied in had no complaint against them.
In his letter to the family though, the boy mentions the “embarrassment” he faced at school over non-payment of fees once. “There were times when our brother could not pay his fees and once he was asked about it in front of the class,” says the eldest sister, who is married but lives with her children at her parental home.
According to the police, the boy told the girl about his plan to leave for Mumbai to pursue a singing career, and she decided to join him. However, the two didn’t have the money or the means, and the boy contacted a friend in Jaipur, who apparently assured help to get them to Mumbai.
“The boy did not have a mobile. But he had messaged this friend on Facebook,” the police said.
The owner of one of the two shops to face right-wing ire over the elopement, Mohammed Gulfaam is planning to shift his Sameer Beauty salon now. He is the only Muslim owner of a shop in Shastri Nagar’s Sector 3 area, and he no longer feels safe, he says. “My shop was previously attacked during the Indo-Pak match. This time too my shop was attacked, luckily I had shut it down early,” Gulfaam says.
A mob of an estimated 50 people attacked the salon, broke the door down and damaged property. Gulfaam claims to have lost Rs 12,000 kept inside.
“We have registered a case of theft and damage to property,” say the police.
The other shop damaged was Rangeela Hair Dresser in the same area. Owner Mohd Mobeen was winding up his business for the day at around 10 pm when the mob came. A fearful Mobeen fled to a neighbour’s house. “They came with rods and attacked the mirrors first,” says Mobeen, adding that the attackers were young and had their faces covered.
The police have also lodged a case in the attack on the residence of Mushir Zaidi, who lives in Sector 4, Shastri Nagar. Apart from an arson attempt and damage to property, the attackers have been slapped with rioting charges. The third case case relates to a road blockade on Nayi Sadak in Meerut district by the same mob.
The girl and boy were found late in the evening of September 6. Relieved that the incident hadn’t blown up any further, SHO Singh shakes his head in dismay. “They were kids,” he says. “They did not know what they were doing. They had performed together before in school.”
In his letter, the boy says: “Wherever I’m going, it’s to find success. I’ll never return home. If you try to find me, I’ll kill myself.”