On the night of June 11, when 19-year-old Sumaiya Fatima told the police that her sister, Afreen Fatima was an activist and a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the police changed their tone.
What followed was a long night of questioning and harassment against the alleged involvement of her sister and father, Javed Mohammed, a member of the Welfare Party of India, in organizing the protests in Prayagraj.
Prayagraj was one of the many cities where Indian Muslims were protesting against the insults used by the former Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson, Nupur Sharma against Prophet Mohammad during a debate on a prominent Indian media channel.
“R**di! Haramkhor! tum Musalman ho tumhe maar diya jayega – You will be killed for being a Muslim,” the male police constable threatened to kill the mother-daughter duo after they came to know about Afreen’s activism.
“He told us that the mindset of students was changed in JNU and now we would be taught a lesson on Afreen’s behalf,” Sumaiya told Maktoob.
A long night
Hours before, on Friday afternoon, the family had sat together happily to have their lunch when they came to know about the increasing protests in the city. Videos and pictures had started surfacing on the internet.
Soon the police came knocking at their door and Javed was arrested.
“He went with them [police] on his own scooter, they didn’t arrest him like a criminal,” said Sumaiya, adding that the family kept waiting for his return until a relative came home to ask for Javed’s medicines. “That is when we realized that something wasn’t right.”
In the morning, Javed had appealed to the people through a Facebook post to maintain law and order in the city. “Peace-loving cities, social people, Iman Masjid Mutawallis are appealed to come forward and cooperate with the administration in maintaining peace in Allahabad,” read his post.
Javed is since then lodged in Naini central prison in Pyaragraj while the charges against him are still unclear.
Days before, Sumaiya said that the local administration had warned her father about the chances of erupting protests against the slurs used by the BJP member. “They had been pressurizing my father about preventing anything [protests] from happening. They were threatening him that if protests erupted, my father would be held responsible,” she said.
About 5,000 people have been named in three FIRs registered in Prayagraj, of which 68 had been arrested, reported NewsClick. The Press Trust of India on 12 June reported that 227 people from various districts in the state including 68 in Prayagraj, 50 in Hathras, 48 people in Saharanpur, and 28 in Ambedkarnagar, 25 in Moradabad, and eight in Firozabad.
Around midnight, the police came back. This time, Sumaiya and her mother, Parveen was taken to the police station where the questioning took place. Around 2 at night, the police returned to their house to arrest Afreen and the rest of the family members including her sister-in-law with two children, grandmother, and her mentally challenged aunt.
“My sister hadn’t agreed to go to the police station with them and had told them that it was illegal to arrest women during the night, so the police had left,” said Sumiya, adding that soon after they came to know who Afreen was, they said, “galat logu ko utha laye, usey uthana chahiye tha – we arrested the wrong ones, we should have arrested her [Afreen].”
Sumaiya was kept in the police station for the entire night with her mother where they were told that Javed was the mastermind behind the ongoing protests.
“My father is the nicest person I have known in my life. As a daughter, I feel proud of him for the kind of work he has done for people,” she said.
“We don’t have a home anymore”
The last thing Sumaiya remembers from the night is when she was told by a female constable that the demolition of their home was inevitable. “She said that nothing was in their hands, it was an order from higher authorities.”
After spending the entire night in the police station, Sumaiya and her mother were sent to a relative’s house and told not to leave till the demolition was completed. While they continued looking for the whereabouts of Afreen and Javed Mohammed, they saw their home being demolished on a live news broadcast.
“We could see that our belongings were being thrown out of our home. The reporter was happily commenting on everything the bulldozer was breaking down. It felt like everyone was cheering for our destruction,” she said.
The order issued by the Prayagraj Development Authority states that Javed Mohammed was notified on 10 May 2022. The Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973 states that a copy of the order of removal has to be delivered to the owner and the 15-day period has to begin after that. However, Javed’s lawyer KK Rai has claimed that the administration has backdated the notice to say it was issued on 10 May 2022, and that they had never got any such notice.
Sumaiya said that they received a legal notice the night before the demolition took place and while the notice was addressed to her father Javed Mohammed, the house legally belongs to her mother, Parveen. “We have all the proof, we have been paying taxes all these years,” said Sumaiya.
The family took legal action against the unwarranted arrest of Javed, for keeping Sumaiya and Parveen in the police station without a warrant, and against the demolition of their house illegally. However, the family has to wait till the summer vacation of the court comes to an end.
On Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath’s media advisor tweeted a photo of a bulldozer razing a house. He wrote: “Remember every Friday is followed by a Saturday,” implying the previous day’s protests.
Soon after the demolition, the Uttar Pradesh police said that they had found illegal weapons and objectionable posters at Javed Mohammed’s home during a search conducted before Sunday’s demolition.
Ajay Kumar, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Prayagraj said, “we have found a 12 bore illegal pistol and a 315 bore pistol and cartridges and some documents that show objectionable comments against the honourable court.”
“They could only find books, our photos, and other stuff. Why didn’t they find anything then? How did they suddenly find illegal weapons in the rubble in the evening? They also talked about the flags. My father was a member of the Welfare Party. So what’s wrong with having the flags of that party?” questioned Sumaiya.
Sumaiya said that the family will even go to the Supreme Court if needed, to seek justice against the demolition of their house and their father’s arrest. “What they did to us is a message, that if Muslims protest, this is what will be done to them,” she said.
“We ate lunch together on Friday and now we have no idea where home is or our family is. My mind is not able to process this. I ask myself if this happened to my own family. If the man who has been arrested like this was my own father? It feels like a lie,” she said.
“We don’t have a home anymore.”