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Riots turn family into criminals

The communal riots of 1992-93 destroyed a large, happy family and tuned its children into criminals. All the members of the Abdul Rahman Patel family, the parents and nine children, now have criminal records several pages long and are regularly in and out of jails and juvenile homes since the riots. Before 1992, not a single member of the family had a police record. Incidentally, the head of the family was born a Hindu and converted to Islam when he fell in love with a Muslim girl and married her. Khairunissa Patel, the mother of the nine children, dreads the future and questions the social system that brought misfortune upon her family. She had married a Hindu youth against her parents’ wishes and migrated with him to Mumbai years ago, ultimately settling down in the Dharavi slum. Her husband, Babu Sevakaram Patel, converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdul Rahman Patel soon after marriage. Before 1992, he plied a taxi for a living and soon had a fleet of three taxis which he leased, earning a good income for his large household. But the communal riots after the Babri Masjid demolition changed forever the destiny of the Patel household.

On the fateful morning of 28 December 1992, irate mobs burnt down the Shiv Sena office near Dharavi police station. Soon, a curfew was clamped in Dharavi to control the rioting. Khairunissa and her husband, alongwith their eldest son, 16-year-old Iqbal, were arrested the same evening by Dharavi police for the murder of a Muslim youth, Shabbir Khan, who was killed in the rioting.

‘The police implicated my son Iqbal in the murder and charged us with abetting the crime. How is it possible for a 16-year-old to kill someone? We were ostracized from the Hindu-Muslim community and became victims of cruel society’ says Khairunissa. Though a minor, Iqbal was sentenced to life imprisonment and incarcerated in Nasik Central Jail against the rules stipulating that minors should be sent to a home for juveniles.

While Khairunissa was released on bail six months later, both father and son are languishing in Pune and Nashik Central jails respectively. The ordeal for the mother in raising the remaining eight children, while trying to secure the release of her son and husband, was just beginning. Her modest savings and three taxis were soon sold to meet legal expenses and run the house. Somewhere along the way her children drifted away and got involved in petty crime.

Eight years down the line, all her children are involved in several criminal cases of pick pocketing, robbery and assault. Her second son Sajid, 18, with a long history of crime since 1992, was murdered on 11 November 1999, by a rival gangster.

Another son, Abid, was arrested for assaulting a shopkeeper and sent to the Dongri remand home for juvenile delinquents. Abid has seven cases of pick pocketing and thefts registered at Dharavi, Mahim, JJ Marg and Shivaji Park police stations. The six sisters, aged between 10 and 24 years, are also involved in criminal cases, something that Khairunissa, however, denies. ‘I admit that my sons have criminal records but my daughters are not involved.’ She blames society and the police for turning her children into criminals.
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