Sunday, September 09, 2007

'It's been a Black Year for Me'

Shakeela Bano: Malegaon Blast Victim's Widow

Malegaon: A strange calm greets you as one enters lane number two in centrally located Nayapura, a Muslim mohalla consisting of sixteen lanes. A knock on the door of Shakeela Bano – widow of the blast victim Rafique Ahmad – is answered with pure curiosity. “Who are you? And why are you here?” inquiries her 12 year old son. Before I could reply, his intuition recognizes me. “Come inside”, he says with utmost respect. A neat mat is laid out in one kitchen-cum-bedroom house.

A grief-stricken Shakeela Bano (36) prefers to sit on naked floor. Her life, it seems, has been as disorganized as her scattered kitchenware.

Without any formality Shakeela Bano pours her heart out, “As Malegaon readies to observe first anniversary of the deadly bomb blasts as Black Day, the year gone by has been a black year for me.”

Her empty eye sockets moisten. She tries to withhold her emotions but as they say eyes can never lie. A stream of tears tickles down her face as she recalls September 8, 2006.

“Every Friday, we used to eat lunch together after the namaaz. On September 8, 2006, when the news of the bomb blasts reached me, I was shocked because my husband had gone to the Bada Qabristan mosque”, she says.

“It was only in the evening”, says Shakeela Bano, “that Maulana Javid Milli, Imam of Noorani Masjid, informed us that my husband is dead.”

“My world died on that day”, she sobs uncontrollably.

Her husband might be dead but he is still alive in her memory.

“I remember my husband each moment. It seems it was only yesterday that we ate together”, says a heart-broken Shakeela Bano.

Rafique Ahmed was a small-time tailor, sole earner of the family. Shakeela Bano has four kids, eldest is in class 10.

Nine Muslims have been arrested by Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) so far accused of masterminding the September 8, 2006 blasts that killed 31 people and injured more than 300. Almost all victims were Muslims. Interestingly, the case was handed over to CBI on the day when ATS had filed the chargesheet.

Shakeela Bano believes that all accused are innocent and “real culprits” have not been caught.

“Ek Mussalman doosre Mussalman ko kyon Qatal Karega? Kya Hum Pakistan mein rah rahein hain?” Why would a Muslim kill a fellow-Muslim? Are we living in Pakistan? She questions.

She sympathizes with the wives of the accused, “In both cases it is women who are suffering although for different reasons. I deeply share their grief.”

Shakeela Bano terms one lakh compensation from state government as “meagre.”

“At other places, the amount of compensation was much higher so it’s natural for us to feel discriminated”, she complains. She has bought powerlooms worth rupees one lakh and has given them on lease.

“It is my sole source of income”, she says.

“Life has been a vale of tears for us ever since my son passed away on that fateful day”, says Shakeela Bano’s elderly mother-in-law, despair writ large on her wrinkled face.

Shakeela Bano’s youngest daughter Saima has just enrolled in Kindergarten (KG). She plays cheerfully in the house. “My Papa”, says a tender Saima hinting at the door curtain, “will come back. He has gone just to fetch some sweets.”

A quite descends on Saima’s innocent utterance. Shakeela Bano wears a disgruntled look. “How would I tell her the truth?” asks a confused Shakeela Bano.

That’s the dilemma of a young Indian mother.

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