She Was Married For Two Months And Has Been A Widow For Three, Shaista Parveen Has Put Her Life On Pause For Now

Nandita Sengupta & Jaideep Deogharia | TNN

Behrasai (Seraikela-Kharsawan):

Shaista Parveen has been a widow for three months, a month longer than her two-month marriage with Tabrez Ansari. He was 22, she 19, and the happy couple spoke daily on their mobiles — Pune to Kadamdiha in Jharkhand. “Tabrez was popular, he could make anyone laugh,” Shaista told TOI, a tear trickling down.

In the days that followed Tabrez’s lynching on June 17 in nearby Dhatkidih, Shaista fell ill and suffered a miscarriage. She would sit alone for hours thinking how she would be able to salvage her shattered life. In her ears, there was just one word beating down — justice. That, she decided, is what would keep her alive.

“Insaaf chahiye, bas,” she said. Shaista knows that could be a long, hard road to walk. But she’s kept her future firmly on hold till justice is served. “I seek justice for my husband. An innocent man was brutally killed,” she said, her voice a whisper. “Unless his tormentors meet the same fate, I will not rest.” Throughout the conversation, she returns to “insaaf” again and again.

Tabrez, of Kadamdiha, four km away from Behrasai where Shaista’s family live, worked in Pune’s Chikli area as a welder. He married Shaista on April 27 and left for Pune soon after. He returned 45 days later, ahead of Eid with plans to take Shaista with him to Pune. “He had been scouting for a room for us to stay in the city,” Shaista said.

But destiny intervened. On his way home to Kadamdiha from Jamshedpur that fateful night, Tabrez took a shorter route through Dhatkidih, about 10km away. There some people who said he had come to steal – accusing him of being a habitual thief — tied him to an electric pole and beat him till dawn. In between, a video of the incident revealed, he was made to chant Jai Sri Ram and Jai Hanuman.

Police arrived the morning of June 18 and arrested the grievously-injured Tabrez for alleged theft on an FIR that was promptly filed. He was taken to a hospital, doctors declared him “medically fit”. A magistrate ordered he be sent to prison. His health deteriorated. He died on June 22.

Police filed Shaista’s FIR only after Tabrez had died. In the three months since, her statement has still not been recorded, a procedure normally completed within days of an FIR being filed. While 13 of the accused have been arrested, the first charge sheet skipped murder sections. It was added later in a secondary charge sheet on September 18. Forensics of the video has shown it to be authentic.

Now in Behrasai, the teenager said she doesn’t go out anywhere. “I don’t do anything. I don’t even help around the house.” The Delhi Wakf Board offered her a job, but she refused as she wanted to concentrate on fighting the case. Her mother Shahbaz Begum, 39, said Shaista doesn’t eat much either. The place has come to a standstill. “My husband, a tailor, goes out to work but he is half-dimaag (mentally disturbed),” Shahbaz added, eyes cast in sorrow.

Shahbaz remembered Tabrez fondly. “He was not like a son-in-law. He would call me on my mobile hiding somewhere and speak in a deep voice. I’d get scared and hand the phone to my husband. Tabrez would then come in front of me and laugh. ‘Did I scare you?’, he would say.”

Shahbaz said she feels like she has lost her mind. “I don’t know what I am cooking, what is happening, who is doing what. I take medicines but I don’t remember where they are. I needed my Aadhaar card, but I can’t find it.”

Tabrez’s two uncles were his family. One of them, Masroor Alam, teacher of Urdu and Arabic and a maulana, has taken charge of pursuing the battle alongside Shaista. “She is nervous now, in no position to do much. Once the case comes to a close, we will think of her re-marriage,” he said of their plans for her future.

It’s not the lynching alone that’s brought Shaista trauma. It’s also the repeated frustrations she faced with the administration, tied up in red-tape as she chased copies of key documents which the family said they have been denied. “We haven’t been given the postmortem report, and the doctors’ reports. We have every right to the reports,” said Masroor. Let alone interim compensation, Shaista feels let down that no one from the government, not even the local MLA, has bothered to reach out. “Koi nahi aaya,” she said.

Back in Dhatkidih where the assault took place, Kamal Mahato’s house is among the more prosperous ones in the neat village with traditional floor art at the threshold of every door. Now one of the accused, it was on the basis of his FIR that Tabrez was arrested. His daughter Monica, 21, said she goes to college in Jamshedpur. Her father and brother Suman are now in jail. “I have no idea what’s going on,” she said, weeping. “I don’t even know who the defence lawyers are.”

Just outside Dhatkidih a school has been turned into a police post. Sandbags are stacked and cop clothes have been hung out to dry. Policemen on motorbikes coast up and down the seemingly peaceful village. On one of the electric poles along the 300m stretch of the main road, Tabrez’s end was sealed, the 20th man to be lynched in Jharkhand since 2016.