Grandad, Friend, Lynch Mob Victim: Alimuddin’s Last Eid in Ramgarh
Alimuddin’s daughter said he’d call her every week., “Have you forgotten about your abba after marriage?” he’d ask.
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For years, Irshad tried to get Alimuddin to upgrade his old feature phone to a smartphone. But his friend wouldn’t budge. "My phone battery lasts for four full days, and yours lasts only four hours. Why should I change my phone?" he would say, with a laugh. It was through the same phone that Irshad spoke to his friend for the last time.
I called him around 8 am on Thursday [29 June], when he said he was leaving for Ramgarh town. ‘I’ll be back soon, chota sa kaam hain, nipta kar aata hoon,’ he had said. When I called him again an hour-and-a-half later, he didn’t pick up. I kept trying and it kept ringing. Around 10, when we were to meet, his phone was switched off. Irshad said, his voice dipping to a whisperIrshad Ansari, Friend of Alimuddin, and resident of Manua village, Ramgarh
“Around 10, when we were to meet, his phone was switched off,” Irshad says, his voice dipping to a whisper.
Alimuddin Ansari was lynched by a frenzied mob on 29 June. The 56-year-old, the youngest of five brothers, was attacked by a group of at least 10 people, who accused him of carrying beef. The mob accosted Alimuddin an hour after he left home that morning. They beat him with sticks and kicked him repeatedly as they formed a ring around him to keep him from escaping their clutches.
At Alimuddin’s house in Manua village in Jharkhand's Ramgarh district, that he shared with his extended family, a three-day mourning period was underway. The house is packed with local politicians and media personnel. It is raining heavily and those who came to offer condolences didn’t seem to care about the fact that they left their muddy footprints across the room. A table fan has been arranged for the 15-odd visitors who had gathered in the small room.
Mariam Khatoon, Alimuddin’s wife of 25 years, leans against the pink wall, next to her eldest daughter and son-in-law. The three are withdrawn, enveloped with grief, as they sit on the bed Alimuddin once slept on.
Alimuddin, who grew up in poverty, worked hard to ensure a better life for his six children – 3 boys and 3 girls, including a pair of twins. He had only studied till Class 4, and he took every job that came his way, his 45-year-old wife says.
Mariyam Khatoon's eyes light up slightly as she tells us about how her husband didn’t like biryani.
"I would prepare biryani for the children and then for him, I would make chicken curry just for him,” she says. He would make up for the extra work by helping her in the kitchen. "He would cut fruits for the children and grandkids when they visited."
The last time Alimuddin said “khuda hafiz” to his wife, he wore blue jeans, blue shirt and brown shoes. “Abba was a simple man,” says 23-year-old Samma Parveen, the couple’s eldest daughter. “He had three or four shirts and two pairs of pants. He was satisfied with that".
His youngest, 10-year-old Sadia Parveen, who has been sitting mum in a corner all along, suddenly says she has something to share. She leads the way to the terrace. "This is where dad lay down for hours, ammi often joined him here." The terrace overlooks the distant hills that play peek-a-boo with the clouds, while vast green fields roll on endlessly below. It is easy to see why this was, as Sadia puts it, Alimuddin's favourite spot.
Back downstairs, 18-year-old Shahban Ansari is running around to ensure that those who have come to attend the prayers are well tended to. Shahban studies in a Madrasa in a nearby village and visits his family twice a year.
Every time I came home I was greeted by a hug and a smile from him. Abba would ask me of where I wanted to study further so he could arrange the money. I knew he was doing all he could.
After this visit, Shahban says he doesn’t know if he will ever return to the madrasa.
Samma, who gave birth to her second daughter a month-and-a-half ago, is still recovering from the surgery. She traveled 300 kilometers from Midnapore district in West Bengal to be with her family. She talks about how her father loved playing with his granddaughters, Alisha and 4-year-old Alia. He would make sure to stock the house with sweets before the girls would visit. “As a child, if Alisha peed on him, he would just laugh it off,” she says.
Samma’s eyes well up as she recalls how he would phone her every week. “Have you forgotten about your abba after marriage, is everything well?” he would ask me.
Her husband Sheikh Sabir remembers how Alimuddin helped him cope after he lost his father last year.
He treated me like son and not a son-in-law. I had broken down after my father’s death but he stepped in to support me every step of the way. I hop stopped missing the need for a father. Now everything is gone again.Sheikh Sabir, Alimuddin’s son-in-law
Growing up in the village, Irshad and Alimuddin celebrated a number of Eids together. Remembering his friend’s last Eid, three days before he was killed, Irshad says that while everyone flocked to bazaars and other places to celebrate, Alimuddin preferred to stay home and relax with his family. “Hum subah subah Namaaz padhe, ghar aaye aur poora din soye,” he told me, Irshad says.
The grief that looms over Manua makes it impossible to believe that it has been only a little over ten days since Eid-ul-Fitr, when the village was awash in festive joy.
The constant sightings of police and the lynching of a neighbour have left the entire village shaken. The threat is no longer restricted to the news anymore. This time around, it has jumped out of the televisions and newspapers and has hit home.
"We've heard of Muslims being targeted not only in Jharkhand but across the country. It is hard to calm the upset youth in the village sometimes. Lately, our life has become about this unspoken tension," Irshad says.
The tension is palpable in the village, but the family says they've never had issues with the Hindu community. "We have co-existed just fine for the longest time," they said.
The Quint asked the family to call a Hindu neighbor over, someone who could share a few memories of Alimuddin. We waited for over three hours in near silence. No one turned up.
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