Ten days after the death of Mohammad Wakeel during the citizenship law protest in Lucknow, the area surrounding his house in Daulatganj is still cloaked in mourning and fear.
For the past week, Shanno Zaidi, who lives in the house adjacent to Wakeel’s, has not allowed her 20-year-old son to go out. “I have been so scared since Wakeel has died,” she told Newslaundry. “It could have been my son too.”
Wakeel, about 32, was killed by a bullet that hit him in the stomach during the violence in Lucknow on December 19. His shooter has not been identified. Wakeel’s family said he wasn’t part of the protest — he was on his way to buy medicines for his wife Sabina, who is seven months pregnant.
His father, Mohommad Sharfuddin, told Newslaundry that while out to buy medicines, Wakeel heard a curfew had been imposed and that the pharmacy was shut. “He thought he will buy some groceries in case the curfew remains for longer. On the way to the grocery shop, he was shot near the Satkhanda police post, which was burnt during the protests,” Sharfuddin said.
Outside Wakeel’s house in Daulatganj.
He added: “He had nothing to do with the protests. He was a simple auto-rickshaw driver who had to feed a family of 11 people; he didn’t even have the time to participate in such protests.” Wakeel’s household comprises three sisters and four brothers, his wife, and his parents. They live in two rooms rented out of a seven-room apartment.
Wakeel did not die on the spot. He was taken to a trauma centre for treatment, and died some time after. His body was taken to a graveyard, directly from the hospital.
According to Wakeel’s sister Nasreen Bano, who is married, the police urged the family not to bring the body to the house before burial as they feared violence might break out.
Nasreen said, “Bhai didn’t even get a chance to see his house for the last time. Even his last rites were performed outside. We didn’t get to see him properly, we were allowed only a few minutes before the body was taken away. Our hearts bled at that thought.”
Wakeel was the sole breadwinner of the entire family. His father had been a daily wage earner before he was diagnosed with arthritis. He’s been on bedrest for some time now. “I ceased to be the head of the family the day that my son started earning money and taking the responsibility of the house,” his father said.
Wakeel married Sabina last year. Her name then was Savita, a Hindu who married Wakeel against the wishes of both their families. She converted to Islam after they married.
Wakeel and his wife.
Wakeel’s younger brother, Mohammad Taufeeq, said he’s worried about Sabina. “She doesn’t talk to anybody in our family or even her own family. After converting to Islam, her whole world had been restricted to bhaiya. She is seven months pregnant and alone now. We don’t know how she will manage.”
The District Urban Development Authority has offered Sabina a 370 sq ft house near IIM Road, in compensation for Wakeel’s death.
Wakeel’s friend, Mohammad Amir, works at a marriage hall nearby. He said Wakeel was the “big brother” of the house. “He took care of everything at home. He was soft-spoken, always righteous, and never engaged with anybody violently.”
Two of Wakeel’s sisters.
Ten days later, everyone in Wakeel’s house is busy with chores. One sister grinds chutney, another washes clothes. His mother is in the kitchen, preparing lunch. Their faces are lined with grief.
Taufeeq tells Newslaundry that Wakeel had been making plans for the wedding of their youngest sister, Ruby. Ruby is 16, and the only unmarried sister. “Her wedding was one of the things that was top-most priority for bhaiya,” says Taufeeq. “He wanted to have a grand wedding for her because he was quite close to her.”
Ruby opens a cupboard. She takes out a handbag, a pair of jeans, and some blouses and places them on the bed. “Bhaiya was my angel,” she says. “He used to even get me jeans to wear, despite my parents’ disapproval. I once told him I wanted a purse. He got me the prettiest one on Eid.”
The bag Wakeel bought for Ruby.
Meanwhile, the police have said Wakeel did not die due to police firing. On the day of his death, OP Singh, the director general of the Uttar Pradesh police, released a statement, saying: “No death in police firing, police will investigate the reason. We are looking at the CCTV footage.” Ten days later, there is no suspect in Wakeel’s death, and the family still hasn’t been given Wakeel’s postmortem report.