Police photograph burnt properties owned by Muslims in a riot affected area, New Delhi, March 2, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

By Nikita Jain

New Delhi: Ever since their son Mohammed Farman, their family’s only earning member, was arrested in March 2020 just after the violence that overtook North-East Delhi, Salma and Mohammed Farid have been supporting their six-member family by begging and rag-picking.

Having lost their home in a fire after the police took 22-year-old Farman away last year, the couple and the rest of Farman’s family now live in a shanty in the middle of a small, barren park alongside old Wazirabad road near North-East Delhi’s Khajuri Khas Pushta. This may explain why they had not heard anything about their son till early June this year, when they were approached by social workers who had been asked by Farman’s lawyer to seek his family.

Farman is one of the 17 people charged by the Delhi Police in connection with the murder of Babbu Khan, who was killed by a mob at Khajuri Khas Pushta on February 25, 2020, during the violence in North-East Delhi in which 53 people were killed and hundreds were injured.

The chargesheet on Babbu Khan’s murder is numbered 119/20 and lists men from the Hindu and Muslim communities, each of whom has been charged with murder, rioting, using deadly weapons and unlawful behaviour among other offences including Sections 147, 149, 149, 153A, 505, 120-B, 34 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Last year, CCTV footage of a mob attacking Babbu and another man wearing a skull cap had gone viral. While the other man had managed to escape, Babbu had been surrounded by the mob and brutally beaten until he passed out. He was taken to GTB Hospital with severe injuries, but though the hospital released Babbu the same day, he died of his injuries at home two days later, on February 27, 2020.

A family suffers

“Please bring my son back, this is all I ask,” said 45-year-old Salma, sitting outside the small shanty where the six members of Farman’s family live. “I wonder if he is well. We are so helpless and have no idea what to do.”

After the violence in Northeast Delhi last year, many people, mostly belonging to the Muslim community, were picked up by the Delhi police for investigation and later pushed behind bars, charged with several offences under the IPC. When the cases went to court, many were granted bail. However, some remain behind bars, including Farman.

According to Farman’s family, he had been with them for the whole period of last year’s violence in Northeast Delhi. “He had no part in the violence. He was with us the whole time,” said Salma.

Farman’s parents only learned of progress in his case when they were approached by a few social activists earlier this month who informed Salma that her son was awaiting trial. Chand-bi, one of the social workers, told The Wire, “There was major confusion over his address. Even the jail papers did not have Farman’s proper address. Because of this only half the information was shared, which made it difficult for the lawyers to reach out to his family. A Karkardooma lawyer looking after this case asked us to look for Farman’s family. After two days, we located them here in a starved condition.”

Farman’s parents have been unable to see him even now since they lost all their identification documents in the fire. “We have no way to hire a lawyer or know how we can visit Farman. We just know that he has been in Mandoli jail and that he was named in a Delhi riots case,” Salma said.

The bigger conspiracy

“The night after he [Farman] was taken away, which was close to chhoti Holi, we were informed that he had been put behind bars in a case related to the Delhi riots. The chargesheet had been filed the night he was picked up,” 50-year-old Mohammed Farid, Farman’s father, told The Wire. Farman’s family alleges that the police took him away without any evidence.

Pappu, the younger brother of Babbu Khan whose murder Farman is accused of, told The Wire that the chargesheet does not list the names of the real perpetrators of Babbu’s murder.

“They have named Muslims from my neighbourhood in the murder, while it is clear it was Hindus, a few of them even living on the other side of Khajusri Khas Pushta, who killed my brother,” alleged Pappu who lives in Khajuri Khas. “This was a clear case of communal violence. So why did the police pick up innocent Muslim men in the name of Babbu’s murder?”

The hearing of Farman’s bail application was expected to take place on June 14 at the Karkardooma district court, but was postponed to June 24.

“If you see my son by any chance, can you let him know we are alive and getting by?” Salma asked the social activists looking after Farman’s case.

This story was first appeared on thewire.in