On Sunday morning, 19-year-old Sumaiya Fatima and her mother Parveen Fatima reached a relative’s house in Prayagraj after a long questioning session by the police that lasted over 30 hours. The mother-daughter duo thought they would be dropped back to their own home after what had been a grueling day. Instead, they were asked by the police to stay put at the relative’s house, and not move around. Hours later, they saw on LIVE TV that their home, the one they were picked up from on Friday evening, was being razed to the ground.
“Imagine watching your home being demolished on LIVE television. It’s the only home I have known. I have lived there all my life,” Sumaiya said.
Speaking to The Quint on Monday, a day after the demolition, Sumaiya described what it felt like to watch the police empty their house—taking out every single item one by one.
Visuals of the house being emptied by the police officers went viral in the hours preceding the demolition. In the videos, personal items like photographs, birthday greetings, a portrait of Afreen and many books can be seen, among other things.
“When our things were being taken out of the house, it was so difficult to watch. We were watching the videos and recalling everything...‘look that’s our bed where we used to sit on and drink tea together. Those are the books we used to read...’ It was a heartbreaking sight,” Sumaiya said.
“The photographs were being shown on TV, the anchors were pointing towards each item...our whole life was put on display in front of everyone to see and devour. Our memories are attached to those things, but they had no respect for it,” she added.
Sumaiya is Javed Mohammed’s younger daughter and activist Afreen Fatima’s younger sister. Javed, an activist and politician associated with the Welfare Party of India, was arrested by the Prayagraj police on Friday evening, following which Sumaiya and her mother were detained too. Javed has been accused of being a “key player” in the violence that took place in Prayagraj last week over the protests against the inflammatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad by now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
'Police Said You Erred By Sending Afreen to JNU'
While it Is Javed who has been accused of violence, his elder daughter Afreen Fatima has also come into the limelight owing to her past social activism. Afreen has been vocal on a number of issues such as the CAA.
Sumaiya said that even during her and her mother’s detention, the subject of Afreen came up.
“They asked me about my siblings. When I told them about Afreen appi and how she is a student at JNU, their entire demeanor changed. They started telling my mother 'you made a mistake by sending her there. People’s minds and thoughts get diluted after going there. This is why she has become this way.’ They kept saying stuff like this.”
However, Sumaiya said that Afreen, 24, has been a “role model” to her and many young girls, and added that the demolition hasn’t just destoryed her home but also her dreams and aspirations.
“Afreen appi had her PHD entrance exam later this month. She had been preparing for it and studying so hard. Now, her entire year is wasted. Her life..her career, everything is at stake.”
Sumaiya said during detention they were also asked about the “kinds of conversations” that were had inside the home. “What could I have told them? We are a regular family with conversations about what to have for food...we pull each other’s leg and have normal discussions, we are a normal family,” she said.
'Don't Protest': Javed's FB Post Before Arrest
Ajay Kumar, SSP Prayagraj, has said that Javed Mohammed has emerged as the primary suspect in the violence that took place on Friday in the protests.
But Sumaiya said that her father wasn’t present in any of the protests.
“On Friday, he was at home the entire day, only went to pray at the mosque near our house,” she said.
Sumaiya also cited her father’s latest Facebook post, made on Friday morning, where he is saying the best way to communicate something to the government is via presenting a memorandum to the government.
“Given the circumstances, we should quietly observe the Friday prayers...no one should collect on the roads unnecessarily, go home and pray that there is peace,” he further said in the post.
Sumaiya said the post is proof that he wasn’t in the protests or even in support of them. “If someone is so explicitly talking of peace, how can they be accused of inciting violence. Even when he was getting calls that day, he was telling everyone to not get emotional and act rationally and calmly,” she added.
House In Mother's Name, Not Father's
The Prayagraj administration claimed that Javed’s house was “illegal” and it was demolished only after “following all guidelines and after issuing proper notice”. But the family claims they received the notice for the first time ever only on late Saturday night.
“We never received any notice about the house before Saturday night. For 20 years, we have been paying water tax, house tax...every single month. But they never considered our house illegal then. Suddenly overnight they decided it is illegal,” Sumaiya said.
Moreover, while the notice was in Javed’s name, the house is actually registered in his wife Parveen’s name.
“The house was a gift from my maternal grandfather to my mother. In our faith, the properties owned by the wife don’t automatically become the husband’s. In fact, the husband has no right on them. All the bills were also paid in her name. Everything belonged to our mother, you can say that all of us including our dad were just living in this house, but it was hers,” she added.
The Prayagraj police has also said that on search of Javed’s house “inappropriate material” such as “.12 bore and .315 bore pistol and cartridges” were found. However, Sumaiya countered this claim as well.
“The demolition of our house was being broadcast live. Everyone saw everything came out of our house when it was being emptied. Police went in and took out every single item from our house. But no weapons were recovered. If there would have been any weapons, wouldn’t it have been visible in the live broadcast? This is all fabricated,” she said.