"My nephew wakes up in the morning and cries for his father. My sister-in-law doesn't know how to tell the boy that his father is not coming back," says Mohammed Akram, brother of Mohammed Azam.
Thirty-two-year-old Mohammed Azam, a techie who worked with Accenture in Hyderabad was brutally lynched to death on Friday by residents of Murki village in Karnataka's Bidar assuming he was a child lifter.
Mohammed Azam with his son (left) and nephew (right)
“On Thursday night, my brother and five other cousins left Hyderabad to visit a friend in Bidar. One of our cousins, Mohammed Salham-bin-Eid, who is a police officer in Qatar, was visiting Hyderabad – and my cousins decided to take a trip to Bidar and also meet one of Salham's friend who lives there," says Mohammed Akram.
On Friday evening, Azam, Mohammed Salman (20), Salham Al-Kiwaisi (36), Noor Mohammed (21), and their friend Afroz had gone to Bootakula village in Bidar to procure some freshly-harvested honey. But when they reached there, a village resident told them that they could get honey in the village during monsoon. Then, they the cousins went to Afroz' house, and then to a nearby lake where they clicked photographs.
"Later, they got into the car and decided to go for a drive,” Akram says. When they reached a bus stop near a school, they threw out some sweets for the kids.
And that’s when the residents of the village, believing the group to be child abductors, attacked them, Akram says. When Azam and the others fled the scene fearing for their lives, the villagers of Bootakula informed their friends in Murki to stop a red car as the people in it were child abductors.
The residents of Murki set up roadblocks on a bridge, and when Azam and the group were on the bridge, the villagers, who were waiting for the car, threw blankets on the windshield, thereby blocking the view of the driver, Akram tells us.
"Because of the blankets, no one could see the road in front and the car veered off to a caved in space on the side of the bridge. That's when the villagers dragged them out of the car and began beating them up. There were thousands of people and no one came to help them. Even the police were begging the people to go back and stop hitting my cousins, but they did not try to stop them at all. It's all there in the video. It was like the police too did not believe that my cousins were innocent," Akram says.
Azam was lynched to death with stones and wooden sticks. However, Noor Mohammed and Afroz escaped from the clutches of the angry mob and hid in the home of a relative.
Mohammed Salman and Salham were first sent to the government hospital at Bidar and later shifted to the Yashoda hospital in Hyderabad's Malakpet area for treatment. “They have fractured hands… multiple stitches on the head. They have been prescribed bed rest for a while," says Azam’s cousin, Rashid.
A heartbroken Akram says, “My brother is not a child abductor. He has a son who is 18 months old and would never do something to harm children. He always gave rice to the poor, and chocolates to kids. He loved children but would never harm them."
Azam’s wife and son are in Hyderabad, where they live with their in-laws, along with Azam’s two brothers and a sister.
His cousins, Rashid and Sameer, remember him as a man with a good heart. He had been going back and forth between Hyderabad and the Gulf the past couple of months. “But every time he came back to India, Azam would make it a point to visit the bastis nearby and distribute rice… He would give the poor money, and even distribute sweets to children,” Rashid says.
When we ask Sameer how the family is dealing with the loss, he says, “They’re doing okay.” His voice however, gives away the grief that is crushing the family.
Azam’s father is a heart patient. “He is just not saying anything,” Sameer shares.
Azam's family has called for stringent action against those who lynched him to death – but Akram says that the family is wary of the police in Bidar, and they do not trust them to deliver justice for Azam's death.
"When they were being beaten up, the police did not help. When they were begging for their lives, no one believed them. They say they have arrested 30 people but where is the proof? There were thousands of people who lynched my cousins. What about them? Why are they not being held responsible? The police got in touch with us yesterday (Sunday). The SP is saying that there were no rumours of them being child abductors. We don't trust the police," Akram says.