"They Wanted Us Dead, And Now I Wish We Were Dead": Train Attack Survivor Asiya Begum
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: It was the first time that the family from Karimganj in Uttar Pradesh had gone out in two years, and were returning on the train on that fateful day from a wedding in the family. The 2 year hiatus was because they had lost a young son in an accident, with the second paralysed since. And this boy was attacked by the goons who found the Muslim family of ten an easy target in the train, as they beat the men unconscious, molested the women, and thrashed the physically challenged son who has no use of his right arm and cannot walk without assistance.
Asiya Begum is beside herself with fear and grief. She cannot stop crying, and feels now totally helpless and alone. “Not a single responsible person has come to us, to stand by us, to help us. We are so scared, the police is asking us questions we have no answers to, those men who attacked us are still free, we fear another attack, we have nothing nothing left, I just don’t know what we will do,” she cries. The ageing mother who was also groped and assaulted by the mob says she had not recovered from the accident that killed her one son, and paralysed another, and only went because her family insisted.
The sequence of events that she narrated to The Citizen is a nightmare that as she says, “should happen to no one, but it will, because just as they beat us and you kept quiet, they will beat you too, why don’t people realise that? Why? They have left us alone, but they are alone too, don’t they know that? I wish now they had killed us, as no one cares, no one is there for people like us who have nothing to begin with, and now even that little has gone.”
The family of ten boarded the train, with others from the wedding as well. Shortly after they had taken their seats, 3 or 4 boys came and pounced upon their paralysed son, snatched a mobile, and started hitting him. It seemed to be a case of robbery at the first instance, that turned communal shortly after with the men calling in for reinforcements and beating the family senseless. There were three rounds of attacks, as Asiya Begum remembers, the first by the small group, then again by a larger group armed with knives, and then by the mob that had increased to 40 persons.
“My son does not look paralysed when he is sitting but he is, and first they must have thought they need to beat him to rob us, as the rest of us were elderly or women. We women got up, and knowing the days are very bad, started pleading with them to let him go. Don’t hit him beta, please understand, was the tone and tenor I used. Then they turned on me, snatched my jewellery and started assaulting me. At this the men intervened, and with the help of others who were in the compartment and had been at the same wedding, got them out, and locked the doors,” she recalls amidst tears, her voice quivering with fear.
She says that she just remembers the broadstrokes, and cannot even really recall now who got on where, and what they all looked like. “I can’t even remember your name so please write it down for us,” she says, dissolving into tears. The youth started pelting stones at their compartment, broke the emergency window, a couple of them crawled in, opened the doors and they came back in to continue the assault. By now their numbers had increased. “They had called some people who came on motorccyles. They attacked us with knives, iron rods, they started kicking and beating us. My husband is a heart patient, his bones are broken, he has internal injuries now. The men fell unconscious, we started crying, please don’t hit them any more, they are dying but they didn’t listen.” Again other passengers got them out somehow.
They got back in. By this time the mob had increased to 40 men. They started groping the women at this stage. Asiya Begum’s young daughter and other women had been taken out by the other passengers, they hit in the toilets and somehow escaped. Her details are now a little confused as per the sequence of events, as clearly the trauma has taken over her memory, but she cannot forget the assault, the beating, the kicking, the terror.
The train had moved again, and they begged other passengers not to deboard without asking their villagers to send persons to help. One passenger did that, and some of the villagers she says, came and the men then ran away.
What about the guards and the engine driver, when the train was stopped by the mob by pulling the emergency chain? The guard came, but left as the mob threatened to kill him, Asiya Begum says. And the engine driver was a woman who was also intimidated by the mob.
Her husband Shakir who is in severe pain, earns some money from embroidery. This is their only income.The family is very poor, and made even more so after the death of their young son and the treatment of the other. She has another son and a daughter who were saved the attack as they were hidden by the other passengers.
It was not at all an ordinary robbery as some seem to suggest, as the slurs were hate inspired, and as Asiya Begum herself pointed out, the family was willing for them to take the little they had and had offered no resistance to the robbery. It was only when the abuse became unbearable and the men became physical with the women, that the others intervened
“We are so scared, those men are all out there, they might attack us again. The police is asking so many questions we don’t even know the answers to. They came with three men and asked us to recognise them, they kept asking us to identify the person who they said was the ringleader. We could not really place him, but we also said we were too terrified at the time. If the daroga knows he is the main man then they should investigate and find out more. We just want the men to be arrested. We are alone, no one cares, and I wish we were dead,” she cries in helpless fear.
This family lives in the erstwhile constituency of former Congress Minister Salman Khursheed. But there has not been even a move from his side, with the family being left alone to handle their trauma.