Junaid’s Lynching: Taking the Train Ride That Ended in a Murder
It has been over two weeks since a 16-year-old boy was lynched in a crowded train, in an incident of communal violence that shook the country. When Hafiz Junaid left his house in Ballabhgarh in Haryana for a shopping trip to Delhi, his family did not know he would return home soaked in blood, cold and dead.
As a reporter, I wanted to experience the same train ride that he took from Sadar Bazar to Asaoti in an attempt to understand the chain of events that led to his murder. I have been to Sadar Bazar several times earlier too, a market that lights up during Eid and Diwali.
This time for me, there wasn’t any joy, only a question – what happened on that fateful night and what was Junaid’s ‘mistake’?
The Train Journey
With these thoughts crowding my mind, I stepped into the same EMU that Junaid took with his brother and friends on 22 June. The train wasn’t too crowded and I managed to get in and find a seat.
After settling down, I started talking to people around me. I was making all attempts to not show that I am a reporter. Despite that, It was difficult for me to not ask the questions that were bothering me. It didn’t take people too long to figure it out and started asking me which media house I belonged to.
As we started crossing more stations, the train started filling with passengers.
By the time we reached the Okhla station, there wasn’t even any space to stand. There were people outside struggling to come in which would induce a small scuffle among passengers.
For passengers who travel by this train everyday, such incidents are nothing unique. Hurling abuses is a norm. That made me wonder if the same thing happened with Junaid. But how could passengers pushing and shoving each other escalate to murder?
It was after this that I started looking for people who were witnesses to the lynching. Several people knew what happened owing to the media coverage, but nobody was willing to talk. In the middle of all of this, I spotted a young boy standing near the door. He could sense that I was inquiring about Junaid’s death. I went up to him to ask him if he knew anything. After hesitating for a few minutes, he started talking. He told me that he was in the same coach as Junaid on that day. He did clarify, however, that he was on the other side of the coach when the incident happened.
A Witness Recounts
On condition of anonymity, he told me that they had started fighting way before they reached Ballabhgarh. By the time they reached there, the mob had stabbed him with a knife.
Impulsively I asked him – Didn’t anybody come save him? Shouldn’t he have been saved?
His reply was simple:
“This is the problem. Everybody is scared. Nobody cares. If they didn’t blink before killing Junaid, do you think they would have thought before killing us had we intervened? People elder to me also didn’t go help, how could I have gone,” he asked.
I was dumbfounded; I didn’t know what else to say.
The Shocking Apathy
I started asking other people the same question. Why didn’t any come to his rescue? Why didn’t anybody pull the chain? Or call the police?
The silence that ensued after my questions told me that people did not want to meddle in anybody else’s affairs, that they didn’t care.
Everybody can shout and talk about caste and religion, but nobody wants to stand for the truth. Can the passengers who silently watched a 16-year-old getting killed, ever live in peace?
We then reached Asoti from Ballabhgarh. This is the same station where Junaid and his brothers were stabbed and pushed off the train. On 22 June, the station was crowded but when I got here, it was empty. Some people de-boarded the train and went towards their homes. I went to platform number 4, where Junaid was stabbed and thrown. From the station master to the railway workers, nobody was ready to speak. Everyone had the same answer. We were not there on the platform that day.
My team and I left for Khandawli, the village that Junaid belonged to. When we reached, his father was sitting between villagers. I spoke to Junaid’s family.
“Like you are a son to your mother, Junaid was my son. I am only reminded of him when I look at you,” Junaid’s mother said to me before we left.
Her words left me speechless.
Report: Abhinav Bhatt
Camera: Abhay Sharma/Tridip K Mandal
Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Producer: Tridip K Mandal
Assistant Producer: Abhishek Ranjan
Actor: Kanishka Dangi, Saurabh Anand, Saransh Thapan, Rahul Sanpui
(The story first appeared on Quint Hindi and has been translated from the original.)
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