‘My 13-year-old boy has been in jail since last week of February’

Sitting in his drain water-filled house on a rainy Saturday in north-east Delhi, Munawar Ali* said he was at a loss for what to do next.

“My 13-year-old son Amir* was arrested by the police and has been in jail since the last week of February,” alleged the rickshaw-puller who suffers from a speech disorder.

Advocate Abdul Gaffar, who is handling the boy’s case, said: “The police have claimed that at the time of arrest, the boy said he was 19 years old, and that they arrested him after enquiring from his family. But his documents show, and his family has stated, that he is 13. The matter will be presented before the court on Monday.” The boy’s Aadhaar card, seen by The Hindu, states his date of birth as November 21, 2006.

Mr. Gaffar added that the police should have verified his age with the family before arresting him.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (North East) Ved Prakash Surya said: “The boy was apprehended from the spot. When he was taken for medical examination, he informed the doctor that he was 22 years old, and the same was recorded in the medico legal certificate. The family is now producing documents of his age. In the court, we will ask for ossification test.”

He added that the school Amir claimed to have studied in was also contacted for verification, but the authorities denied that he studied there. The response from the school, read by The Hindu, was dated March 13.

The family said that the boy, a Class 5 dropout, had gone to look for his 10-year-old brother, who they thought was out on the streets when riots broke out on February 25. “Around 7.30 p.m., we asked Amir to go look for his brother... my 10-year-old returned but Amir did not,” said Mr. Ali.

Despite severe restrictions on movement and heavy police deployment, the family spent the next two days searching for Amir but could not find him. “The police were not letting us go out on the streets but I went looking. I could not find him,” said Amir’s elder brother.

Unable to meet son

The teenager’s mother, Saima*, said that she received a call on February 26 mentioning her son’s name but before she could understand what the person on the other side had to say, the phone got disconnected. “When I called back, no one answered,” she added. On February 27, Saima received a call from a lawyer who told her that her son has been arrested by the police and is being sent to Mandoli Jail. Since then, she has been running from pillar to post to meet him but to no avail.

Unaware of police or court proceedings, or the Juvenile Justice Act, Saima said she got another call from a lawyer on February 29 telling her not to worry. “I visited Khajuri Khas police station a number of times and asked them how I could speak to my son but officers did not tell me anything. The lawyer had asked me to come to Karkardooma Court on Friday but he could not meet me. I asked him if I could visit the jail but he said it is not the right time,” said Saima, who works as a domestic help.

Amir’s family admitted that the teenager had been going to anti-CAA protests regularly for the past two months, but denied that he was a part of the riots. “He is a child. His interest in attending the protest was free food and tea, and to while away his time. He would leave around 5 p.m. and come back by 11 p.m. It is tough to believe he would be a part of any mob,” Mr. Ali added.

(*Name changed)

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 12:29:22 PM |

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