May 11, 2014

Azamgarh Cries for Its Missing Brothers and Sons

Swarnendu Dutta in Azamgarh

For more than 5 years there is no news of the brother of Abu Talib, a poultry vendor in Azamgarh. Abu Talib and his brother used to work in Mumbai in the jewellery industry. Rashid, the brother, had come home from Mumbai for Ramzan. He was scheduled to return after Eid. However, the Crime Branch of Mumbai police came to Abu Talib one day and said that Rashid was a terrorist. They asked Abu Talib to meet them unofficially which he refused. He told them they can interrogate him formally but he will not meet them unofficially. Then the Crime Branch told Talib to call back his brother from Azamgarh. Rashid did not wait till Eid and started for Mumbai within Ramzan itself. But he never reached Mumbai. The harassment of Abu Talib’s family did not end here. All those people whose phone number was there in Abu Talib’s call list were subjected to humiliating house searches. The acquaintances in Mumbai severed all contacts with Abu Talib’s family. He was forced to close down his workshop and return to his native village in Azamgarh. In Mumbai many people used to work in his workshop; now he sells chicken at a street side shop. Many people of Azamgarh, like Md. Saif, Arif, Salman, Dr. Shahnawaz, Khalid, wait for their near and dear ones to return home. They wait for people who have simply vanished from the face of earth. But they are too afraid to talk about their plights. Some like Md. Shakir however share their grief. Three months before the encounter at Batla House, New Delhi, Shakir’s brother had gone to Delhi for a diploma in jewellery. He is missing since the encounter at Batla House. He had called home to say that he is catching a train to return home. But he never returned. The tears of his mother have dried up. Earlier the family thought that media will help them. But nothing has happened. Some of the youths in the area get agitated with the correspondent for repeated questioning. One of them say just write that we are all terrorists. Why are you even bothered with us? The pain of the youth of the area gets evident from such utterances. With tears on their eyes they are being haunted by the memories of their missing friends. They have agitated, revolted, blocked roads demanding answers, demanding enquiries. But to no avail. The right hand man of Amit Shah has proclaimed that Azamgarh is the den of terrorists. An entire area, an entire community, the youth of an entire district has been marked with the label of terrorists by the RSS henchman. Arrest of the youth as suspected terrorists, long drawn out cases, missing youth who never return have become common place in Azamgarh. Since the Batla House encounter, any terrorist activity in the country is deliberately linked with Azamgarh. The total number of persons killed by the police or missing is 23. Because of the terrorist tag attached to the place, the youths are not being able to get jobs, education. This is the plight of an entire generation because of the vilification campaign of the RSS-BJP. The people of the area however remember the role played by CPI(M) in their struggle against such stereotyping and social profiling. They remember the solidarity shown by Prakash Karat and Subhasini Ali when they joined their protest demonstration at Lucknow. Subhasini Ali has visited the place repeatedly and has consoled the people whose near and dear ones were killed or are missing. The situation of the people was summed up by a couplet recited by a youth, Nafs nafs kadam kadam ghire hai hum sawalo se, Humhe jawab chahiye, Jawab agar na mil saka to, Inquilab chahiye