Earlier this week, we received a lead that a 17-year-old boy, Mohammad Danish, had been missing in North East Delhi since February 24. The violence in the capital killed at least 47 and left hundreds injured.
As we asked around for Danish, we met two young boys who realised we were searching for the brother of their friend.
Danish’s home lies within one of the several small lanes that bisect Old Mustafabad. Here, we met Shahrukh, Danish’s brother. That’s when we realised Danish wasn’t missing — he’s being housed at a juvenile detention centre at Sewa Kutir in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar.
When she was told that journalists were at her doorstep, Hameeda, Danish's mother, came running down the stairs to speak to us.
Danish was last at home on February 24, Hameeda explained. At the time, the family had no clue about the tension simmering in the area. Danish left for work that morning after having a cup of tea. He works at an export factory in Maujpur's Shiv Mandir road, where he's learning to be a garment cutter.
Danish's mother, Hameeda.
Danish's brother, father, and mother.
By afternoon, the situation turned volatile. The export factory closed early for the day and workers were sent home by 4 pm. But just about two km from his home, at a foot over-bridge in Yamuna Vihar's C-Block, Danish was surrounded by a mob and the police.
Danish telephoned a friend. An audio recording of the phone call explains what happened.
"Arey yaar, Yamuna Vihar aja, bohot dar lag raha hain," Danish says in the recording. "Come to Yamuna Vihar, I am very scared." His friend responds that it's a lane inhabited by Hindus and he should get out right away.
"Mujhe bohot dar lag raha hain," Danish repeats. "I am very scared." The friend says, "Kisi sey kuch mut kahiyo, aese side sey aaja." "Don’t say anything to anyone, just take a route from the side."
"Tu aaja kisi gi gadi leke," Danish replies. "Just get someone’s vehicle and come fetch me."
But there was no one around to help. Danish's father then received a phone call from his son, saying he had been picked up by the police and was being taken to the Dayalpur police station.
With the situation worsening on the streets, the family could do nothing but wait at home, praying that Danish was okay.
"The roads were all closed due to the riots so for four days, I didn’t know where my child was," Hameeda said. "Finally, on Friday [February 28], we went to the Dayalpur police station to look for him.”
At the police station, Hameeda said she asked to meet her son. "While they said Danish was there, the police personnel said no one is allowed to meet the detainees and asked us to leave,” she said.
She also claimed that the police threatened to shoot her “as well” if she didn’t leave immediately.
The family was later called to Karkardooma court, where a lawyer told them Danish has been shifted to Sewa Kutir. On Sunday, nearly six days after he'd been picked up, Hameeda finally met Danish. She could not recognise his face.
“They had beaten him so badly; his face was swollen," she said. "He also showed me his legs which were swollen. He pointed out to the marks on his neck, where the police had hit him with belts and sticks.”
Danish told his mother that after the phone call with his friend, he was stopped by the police, who asked him his name. His parents believe that due to his Muslim name, Danish was detained.
Dayalpur police station.
Danish and his mother.
He kept crying, a distraught Hameeda told us. “He begged me to take him home…he said there were other Muslims too who had been detained, and the police had been forcing them to say they burnt the masjid and were also involved in stone-pelting.”
But Danish did not comply. “My son told me he had been kept without food and water for four days in custody," Hameeda said. Teary-eyed, she recalled how her son would never skip a meal and was now being kept without food.
Hameeda claimed Danish was also not provided with toilet facilities for four days at the police station. When she finally met him, she said, noticed his pants were wet. “He said he had to go on himself.”
According to her, this mistreatment took place at the Dayalpur police station, before Danish was moved to the juvenile centre. The family is currently trying to secure bail.
An official source confirmed that Danish is in an observation home at Sewa Kutir. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 6.