Lucknow: The house that Irum Khan has lived in for three years now haunts her. She had been very happy to move to the cramped, one-room rented house in Khadra from a slum area in Lucknow. The death of her husband on December 24, which the family says was because of trauma caused by their son’s arrest by the UP police a few days before, has left her feeling scared.
The 45-year-old used to work as a maid in three houses before her husband Raushan Khan’s death to help with the family’s finances. Raushan, also around 45 years, was a vendor of a small beauty products kiosk. He earned just enough to make rent and pay for other expenses.
Irum cries as she says, “It does not make sense to live here without my husband. Even my son Kamil is scared to go back to that house because he fears he may be picked up by the police at any time.” She has now moved back into her parent’s house, located in a makeshift slum in Aminabad area with her three sons and daughter.
On December 19, violence rocked Lucknow during a citizens’ protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). In the aftermath, many people from the Khadra area in Lucknow were picked up by the police during pre-dawn raids on December 21.
Irum’s son, 18-year-old Kamil, was one of them. But according to his mother, he hadn’t left the house when the protests were held. Knowing that a curfew had been imposed, he had packed up his work early to come back home.
She says that the police came to their area after midnight, at around 2 am on December 21. They started knocking and beating on the main gate of the building where Irum’s family and four others lived. “They were beating the gate loudly and shouting slurs. It felt like they will break it. We were already scared as they had picked up people from the neighbouring areas, so we didn’t open the door. The police, however, climbed up the terrace using ladders and entered anyway,” she says.
After entering the house, they picked up men from all the five families living there. Among them was Kamil Khan. “From my room, Kamil and my brother-in-law were taken by the police,” she says.
According to his family, Kamil has mental disabilities and experiences fits on a regular basis. Irum told that to the police, but to no avail.
“We didn’t sleep the whole night and Kamil’s father developed some issues. He was clearly in trauma and kept asking for his son. But sadly, even his last wish couldn’t be fulfilled. The trauma of being helpless when the police take away your eldest son killed him. What else could it be?” she asks.
Irum Khan’s brother-in-law, who was also arrested, has kidney issues. She says, “They were going to pick my husband up too. But I begged them not to and they took just Kamil.”
After Kamil’s arrest, his mother and uncle Bablu Khan both unsuccessfully spent the entire day near the jail, trying to meet him. Bablu Khan, a rickshaw driver, had to put his rickshaw and bike as security deposit to secure bail. By then, it was too late, as his release came only a day after the death of his father.
Raushan Khan had passed away within three days of his son being arrested by the police. “My husband’s health deteriorated substantially after my son was picked up. He fell ill and died in the next few days, of trauma,” says Irum.
According to the family, Raushan Khan had no history of heart problems.
Kamil, the eldest of his siblings, is now the sole bread earning member of his family. He has two brothers and one sister.