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A man jailed for protesting, a small-town family devastated and a wait in limbo for all

Jailed for "conspiring" to incite the Delhi riots, Shadab Ahmad's family in Bijnor is confused, worried, angry and anxious, and are yet to see him since his arrest

A man jailed for protesting, a small-town family devastated and a wait in limbo for all
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New Delhi: Last time the phone rang, Shamshad Ahmad answered in half a moment just to listen to the feeble voice of his son in jail. "Main theek hu. Aap chinta mat karna," said Shadab Ahmad to his mother.

Sitting at one corner of the room, Shamshad Ahamad recalls, as a young boy, his son Shabad had met with a terrible accident, while he was on his way back home from his university. With four out of five people dying on the spot, Shadab was the only one who survived the brutal accident, earning him the title of a 'fighter'.

27-year-old Shadab has been named as a "conspirator" of the north-east Delhi riots that killed at least 53 people, over 40 of whom were Muslims.

Shadab was called for interrogation by the Delhi Police a couple of times in early March. His phone was seized during the interrogation when he was called somewhere between March 10 to 12. In early April, Shadab was called by the Delhi Police in connection with the violence and was thereafter jailed. He has been named in two chargesheets in FIR numbers 59/20, and 60/20.

His family said his son complied with the interrogation and appeared before the Crime Branch when called. Hailing from a modest family in Uttar Pradesh's Chandpur Tehsil in Bijnor, Shadab had always been studious.

Shamshad - a reputed man in the area described his son as a sensitive young man. "What shall I tell you about Shadab? He is an educated young man, who has always been engrossed in his work. His whole life has been simple," he said, looking around his quaint house that stood quietly in between narrow crisscrossing lanes.

"He was jailed during Ramzan," Shamshad recalled. Shadab's father owns a small bakery shop and runs it from a single room in his house. "I do little things and earn a living. I have an electric rickshaw, while the shop is also doing fine by god's grace," he said.

A family of seven, including Shadab, the Ahmads live a quiet life with no history of violence or ruction with the neighbours. "My life has changed a lot," Shamshad repeated sadly. "I have been vigorously involved in politics and have seen what it brings along with it," he further said.

Standing at the corner of the verandah, Shadab's mother, a soft-spoken woman in her late 50s occasionally sighs and smiles as her husband narrates their son's ordeal. She occasionally calls out Shadab's name mistakenly, while calling for her younger son. "I cannot believe what is happening to us. He did not do anything. I know my son; he would never do anything like this," she said, staring at the floor.

Consoling her mother, Shadab's older sister Showaqta remembers her brother as one of the most humble human beings. "Mera bhai bahut acha hai, na usne kabhi kisi se koi ladai ki hai, na kabhi kisi ke sath koi dushmani rahi hai. (My brother is very nice. He has never fought with anyone; neither does he have an enemy). The most disappointing part is when he did not do anything and is accused of something so huge that impacted so many lives. Ye sun kar to bahut afsos hua. (It was heartbreaking to hear this)," she said. Shadab has two elder sisters, including Showaqta, one younger brother, while the youngest sister just finished school.

"We five have been very close. All of us fight and laugh together; it is so much fun when we come together. Both my elder sister and I are married, while Shabad was out working. Spending time became limited," she said, as tears filled her eyes up.

Shadab was working in a manufacturing company in Delhi's Jagatpuri area, where he has been living for the last three years. His father said that he was planning to get him married. "A very reputed man in the area recently came to our house for his daughter's hand in marriage with Shadab. I told him my son is in jail but the man said he knew about it and still wants to marry off his daughter to Shadab. I have worked very hard in my life and people in my vicinity hold that respect for me," Shamshad said, sipping his evening tea.

As the softly dappled sunlight streamed through the small verandah, the family tried their best to hide their emotions behind warm smiles. "I have left everything on Allah. He will show us the way," Shamshad said.

Shadab was attending the protest at Chand Bagh. As the anti-CAA protests gained momentum, volunteer works of the protest were taken care of by people, who joined in from different walks of life, which also included Shadab.

He, like many others, was moved by the protests and wanted to speak out against the law that many legal experts define as "unconstitutional".

The family was anxious about Shadab's decision to attend the protest. "I told him, son, we are not meant for these things," Shadab's father added. Listening intently was Shadab's younger brother, who is studying at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). "My brother is not being discussed anywhere, there is no outcry on the false accusations against him. Everyone is quiet," he said, visibly disappointed.

The limited interaction with Shadab has left his family worried about his mental and physical condition. Shamshad also said they are waiting to apply for Shadab's bail. Speaking in long pauses, the family looked uncertain due to the limitations of their understanding regarding the case or charges against his son. Shadab, according to chargesheet 60/20 "played a vital role in instigating the protesters at Chand Bagh protest site."

"He was entrusted with the job of maintaining the tent and stage at the protest site. He along with other accused persons used to deliver hate speeches and convey instigating messages from the stage at the protest site… The organizers including accused Shadab instigated the protesters to be violent and in a planned manner asked them to join the protest and equip themselves to any violence…" the chargesheet stated.

Despite everything they are going through, the family averred they are not scared. "Fear is for those who have done something wrong. My son has done nothing wrong and I have nothing to fear," Shadab's mother said.

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