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"What If She Was Your Child?"

Whenever it wants, the government throws up our case, say Ishrat’s sister and mother

Ishrat Jahan’s mother Shamima in Mumbra
Photo by Amit Haralkar
"What If She Was Your Child?"

A huge military tank outside the congested Mumbra railway station, aro­und which crowds and autorickshaws scuttle about, stands as a symbol of national pride and security in this Muslim ghetto, which also houses a Durga temple on a nearby hill. The way to the slightly dilapidated two-room house in Rasheed Compound, where Shamima Kausar, Ishrat’s mother, lives, is through a crowded and noisy market. Shamima shops once a day, for she can’t climb four floors and huffs and pants her way up.

Shamima and Mussarrat, Ishrat’s younger sister (currently in Patna with her grandmother), make every effort to avoid the media. “I agree we got media support, but just see what has happened now?” asks Mussarrat, a graduate, who has decided to see her sister’s case through. “Every time the government wants to divert attention from something, such as the budget, Ishrat’s case is brought out...the same allegations follow. We are real people. Doesn’t anyone get this?”

Rauf Lala, a family friend who has been helping them since the encounter, shares the sentiment. “I have seen Headley’s deposition. He was prompted to take Ishrat’s name as if it was a multiple choice game. This is not sudden. It was pre-planned, looking at the way G.K. Pillai’s comments have now come up. Why didn’t he say this in the court? Why go to the media? The attempt to justify the encounter by creating doubt about a dece­ased person is unjust.”

“My daughter was so disciplined and so self-respecting. We have eaten just chutney and roti for meals but we never begged bef­ore anyone. She used to keep her hand on my head and would tell me that everything would get better in a couple of years. Instead of me giving her support, it was the other way round,” her mother says, fighting tears as she speaks of the bright child who studied science, gave tuitions at home, and also taught at tutorial classes.

“Where was the time for any other activities? We have no doubt that neither my sister nor any of us are terrorists. Just because we are poor, we are being accused of all kinds of things,” says Mussarrat.

The family maintains they didn’t know Javed well. Ishrat had been working for him and had travelled twice with him before the final trip. Though supported by Rauf Lala, Munna Sahil and NCP leader Jitendra Awhad, the family says they paid a heavy price for it.

“All my children were studying when this happened. As it is, they all had to take a break when their father died. Till now we are not normal. Just when we feel things will become routine, something happens in the case. But we can’t give up also,” says Shamima. Mussarrat is more open. “My brother lost his job when they found that he was Ishrat’s brother. Who will give me a job...though we need one. People ask us to delete their numbers from our phones because they don’t want to get into trouble.” Her two other sisters are now married and don’t speak to the media anymore.

“I feel we have become government pro­­perty. Jab chaaha case uchhala, jab chaaha bhool gaye. What if she was your child? People should know that when they believe such things about Ishrat they are disbelieving the law,” says Mussarrat. “I want the truth and we will fight till it does,” says her mother, holding on to the walls for support. Extreme fatigue visits her frequently—like the media for interviews.

By Prachi Pinglay Plumber in Mumbra

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