Fellow Bangaloreans stream into Afreen's maternal home
The narrow lane to the house can accommodate only one person at a time, but after three-month-old Afreen's demise on Wednesday, there has been a steady stream of hundreds of visitors jostling to pay their condolence and to show support to the family.
Among the visitors on Thursday was Naim K., a businessman from Fraser Town, who came along with his family to the D.J. Halli house. “After reading the news, I went to the hospital, but there were too many people there and I couldn't talk to the family. I only wanted to tell them that we would extend all support possible,” he said.
Hounded by media
Though bringing the story to the fore of the nation's conscience, the widely reported story also has a flipside, with many TV journalists landing there for an ‘exclusive' interview. After Afreen's mother Reshma Banu and grandfather Abdul Karim Khan had left for an interview with a local news channel, other journalists who turned up, started badgering the other family members in the house.
“They started asking us to come to their studio. They persisted even after we refused saying we could speak only Urdu. After a point, my sisters and I hid in the neighbour's house,” said Parveen Taj, Reshma's elder sister.
Pall of gloom
The mood in the house was sombre and of anger at the man they hold responsible for the infant's horrendous death, her father Umar Farook. “He should be hanged. He should die a painful death, like how the innocent child died,” fumed Maqbool Bi, Reshma's mother.
The outrage is echoed by the residents of the area, who congregated around the house in a show of solidarity. “Umar Farook has sullied the good name of the area and of Muslims across the State. He should be hanged, lest he come out and ruin other lives,” said S. Nawab Jan, a resident.
Amidst the reminiscences and reflections, there is also remorse over not having acted on the initial signs of abuse. “Even though Reshma wouldn't tell us anything, we knew something was wrong. However, she would convince us that he would sober down soon,” her mother said.
She remembers her son-in-law as a taciturn man, who preferred not to talk to the family as they were of a “lower class” than him. “His elder brother has two daughters. Even after that how can he think of doing this to his own daughter?” asked the distraught grandmother.
Ms. Parveen said Farook had even hit his young wife in front of them. “Just after her delivery three months ago, she was chatting with me in front of our house. Umar got very angry at this and slapped her. He stopped after I screamed at him,” she said.
Scarred and scared
The trauma has scarred the family. Ms. Parveen, whose wedding was deferred due to the horrific events leading to Afreen's death, said: “If it were left to me, I wouldn't want to get married for a few years. The fear has to subside before that.”