'Would've Been Alive If He Wasn't Muslim': Junaid's Mother, 5 Yrs After Lynching
It’s been five years since the murder of 16-year-old Junaid Khan. Six men accused of killing him are out on bail.
The 16-year-old wore an ironed shirt and a pair of jeans, placed Rs 1,500 in his pocket, and quickly left home to catch a local train to Delhi with his elder brother Hashim and their friends Moin and Mohsin.
It was the day of Eid shopping, and he bought new clothes for himself and gifts for his nephews and nieces. The group visited the Jama Masjid, where Junaid posed for pictures on the steps, before boarding a train back home.
By that evening, Junaid should have been home to his parents Saira and Jalaluddin, and his siblings.
Instead, only bad news reached home – Hashim and Junaid were being attacked in the Mathura-bound train by a group of men, after a tussle over seats took an ugly turn.
Hashim claimed that the men pulled at their beards, passed religious slurs, called them "beef-eaters," and then stabbed Junaid multiple times.
At Asaoti station, the brothers and their friends were thrown out, and Junaid bled to death there – photos of him lying on his helpless brother Hashim's lap had gone viral at the time.
It's been five years since the chilling murder of 16-year-old Junaid Khan. Six men accused of killing him – Naresh Kumar, Ramesh Kumar, Rameshwar Das, Pardeep Kumar, Chander Parkash, and Gaurav Sharma – are out on bail.
'A Madrasa Named After Our Brother'
Half a decade later, Junaid's brother Qasim, 24, says that had Junaid been alive, he would have been 21 years old – an adult.
"He was just a child when he was killed. He didn’t get a chance to know what he would have done with his life, what he would have become, how his life would have shaped up," he added.
That fateful summer of 2017, Junaid was home for the Eid holidays. He was studying at a madrasa in Nuh in Haryana's Mewat, and wanted to become an Imam.
Although away from his parents, Junaid still had family in Nuh, as his sister Rabiya, her husband, and their children live there. Rabiya recalled how much Junaid loved his parents and her children, and how hard-working and helpful he was.
"When Junaid was alive and studying here, there was another madrasa that was under construction. After he was killed, we named that madrasa after him and called it Junaid Shahid," she told The Quint. Perhaps, this is one more way of remembering her brother.
At their home in Khandawali village, Junaid's mother Saira keeps laminated photos in a stack – a happy photo of her seven children, and a solo photo of Junaid from that day at the Jama Masjid in Delhi, hours before he was stabbed to death.
And then there's another photo in the stack – of a blood-soaked Junaid lying at the Asaoti station.
"They called my son a Pakistani, a terrorist. How can they say that to a child? He was only 16 years old at the time," she told The Quint.
Financial Stress, Job Loss
In the last five years, Saira has tried her best to have her voice heard. From interviews with the media to participation in protests, Saira has not stopped talking about her beloved son and the men accused of killing him.
"My son was killed only because he was wearing a skullcap on his head. He was killed because he was a Muslim. If he wasn't a Muslim or wasn't wearing a skullcap, he could have been alive today," said Saira.
Once upon a time, Khandawali village stood with Saira and Jalaluddin in their hour of grief, but today, she feels that everyone has moved on except her family – a sentiment also echoed by her son Qasim.
He said, "We have the support of the village even now but if we organise a protest, people don't join. Maybe because it's not possible to leave work for this."
The COVID-induced lockdown and restrictions, too, meant that Saira couldn't be on the streets to fight for justice for her son, though she wanted to.
Apart from this, the family's deteriorating financial situation only got worse in the last two years. Junaid's father Jalaluddin, who used to be a driver, suffered a heart ailment soon after his son was killed, and had to give up work. Junaid's brother Hashim is employed at a madrasa but the bare minimum salary he earns is often delayed.
Junaid's elder brother Shakir, who came to his rescue on 22 June 2017 and suffered five stab wounds, is unable to do much work.
"His arm looks just fine but he still can't do any heavy lifting. It's been five years but he hasn't fully recovered," Qasim said.
Where Does the Case Stand?
Six men were arrested and accused of the crime in 2017. Of them, only two – Naresh Kumar, 26, and Rameshwar Das, 53, who was a health inspector in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi – have been accused under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section of murder.
"Our demand is that the murder charges be put on the rest of the accused as well. For this, we had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court to demand a CBI inquiry. That petition was dismissed on grounds of non-jurisdiction. So, we moved the Supreme Court," said Nibrash Ahmed, the advocate representing Junaid's family.
The Supreme Court had stayed the trial court proceedings in March 2018, and by October 2018, all six accused were out on bail.
The trial has not proceeded any further due to the apex court's stay orders in February 2018.
"We have only received adjournments. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court since all the cases of mob lynchings have been merged. Hopefully, the apex court will next hear the matter in July," Ahmed added.
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