Neha Afreen Banu – Bruised & battered


I first saw her on April 9th. A beautiful baby. Fair skinned. Healthy looking. Ironic that she had several tubes coming out of her. A machine nearby beeped. The numbers read her heart rate and pulse.

It makes me want to cry.

As I spoke on my phone-in about the death of an almost three-month-old infant, Neha Afreen Banu, I could feel my eyes well up. I was following the baby’s story for three days and the end seemed to have come too soon.

From the very first day, I believed that Baby Afreen just like Falak should not survive. What kind of a life is this where you are pinning on hopes that a three-month-old would survive severe brain damage with tubes inserted into her? You would rather let her go to a better place.

What sort of a world is this where one would even remotely want to hurt a newborn? Afreen’s father reportedly fed her poison-laced biscuits, bit her on her back, and even smothered her with a pillow. It just makes no sense to me. What sort of a man is Umar Farooq for even having the audacity to harm a child? His own child? His own blood and genes? All because he wanted a son? All because of her gender? Didn’t you have to firstly marry a girl to even be able to have that child? And the gender of a child is determined by the chromosome of the male partner. I’m sure all this may mean very little to the man behind all this. The man who killed Afreen.

As I write this, the image of Reshma Banu, Afreen’s mother flashes through my mind. I can’t get the entire ‘hospital experience’ out of my head. The first day I met Reshma, she seemed a little confused. She made conflicting statements. I understand that there was a lot of pressure on her especially under the glare of the media. A 19-year-old (she looks much younger to me) would never have imagined all this trauma.

The next day when I met Reshma, she seemed more composed. Filled with hope. There seemed to be a new strength in her, and a will to fight for her battered baby. I even spoke to Reshma on Wednesday morning. She was calm and spoke clearly. The baby had blood in her stools, she said. I could feel how much she wanted this baby. Especially having had an abortion of her first pregnancy when she was carrying twins.

I had spoken to the doctor a while ago and she had stated that Afreen’s condition hadn’t changed. She had convulsions early that morning.

It was around half past 11 when we feared the worst. A little later I confirmed with the Medical Superintendent of the hospital that Afreen had suffered a cardiac arrest and was no more. Her frail body had given up. She had barely even lived.

I saw Reshma Banu a little later. She was inconsolable. Her hopes shattered. Her only baby dead. All reportedly because her husband wanted a male heir.

As I wrapped up my day and went home, I could only think of the tragedy that had befallen the family. They had gone through so much the past week. Even in their poor financial condition, they were doing everything they could for the little one. As opposed to Farooq’s family who were said to be better off financially, who did not even bother visiting the baby. They are absconding now.

Now that the cameras aren’t there and mics not shoved in their faces, my prayers are with Reshma Banu and her family. No words can console her grief. No hugs can calm her down. After all she has lost her baby.

My only hope now is that the perpetrators are punished severely. And innocent lives like Afreen are allowed to live a life of dignity, or not be brought into this world at all.

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23 thoughts on “Neha Afreen Banu – Bruised & battered

  1. How could a so called “human” do this to an inocent child like this. So so so heart breaked. AS a Vietnamese where there used to be gender discrimination, I am so happy that there is nearly no more of it here any more. babies, no matter boys or girls, are loved and protected by their families and other people also.

    I hope the policemen and authorities will have strict punishment on this murder case, and I hope they can change this thought of Gender Discrimination of all the men/fathers/father-to-be in all over India, so that baby girls would be loved and taken cared of as they should be.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Thuy nguyen. It is good to hear that the situation in Vietnam has gotten better as far as gender discrimination is concerned. Let us hope that things get better in India too.

  3. Hi Ma’am.
    Landed here while I was browsing the story of Neha Afreen Banu ! Distraught to read this up 😦
    In an age where India is progressively heading towards a developed nation, issues like Female infanticide and Honour Killings …. act as deterrents. Unless we come out on top of these syndromes, India cannot reach the crest. Stern action is the only measure to curb these menaces.
    Thank You

  4. Hi shpask
    When incidents like these occur, one really wonders if the country is progressively heading towards a developed nation. Nevertheless we must work towards protecting babies like Afreen and Falak and giving them a good life.

  5. Hi Ma’am
    Thanks for your reply. Yes, you were right. Focus must be laid on safeguarding babies and also the rights of women.
    Thanks again for throwing light on the battered lives.
    Sai Kishore

  6. I have been browsing the internet everyday since I heard the news of Baby
    Afreen’s death and reading every news about her, looking at her pictures and shedding tears of resent, hatred and pity. I just cant get her out of my head. My eyes well with tears everytime I think about this darling baby. I cant imagine what on earth must have made that ba&!#^d beast, devil to treat his sweet innocent child like this. He should be cruelly tortured ten times more the way he tortured Baby Afreen, castrated and left to die. He should not be shown any mercy. The law should not spare him. I am a mother of a
    one-and-a-half year old baby girl and my husband and I adore her. She is our only child and believe me, in case, God gives me another chance to bear a child, we’ll want it also to be a girl. Daughters are such darlings.
    Children, no matter boy or girl, are God’s precious gifts, who ought to be treated with respect and dignity and taken care of as His possession, sacredly. Hope everyone realises this..

  7. Dear Tabu
    Thanks for your comment. I feel the same. Just thinking of little Afreen makes me so sad and angry at the same time. How could anyone even think of hurting someone like that? When there are so many childless couples, how can a man do this to his own daughter? There are infact several options before such families and one of them is adoption. Children can be relinquished (there’s a formal legal process). If the mother wants the baby she can actually get support from agencies. There is also the Cradle Baby scheme, where you can leave the baby anonymously at places where cradles are kept. This is there in places including Bangalore, Delhi, Haryana and Tamil Nadu. The problem is that there is barely any awareness.

  8. Hi Ma’am
    Cradle Baby scheme is a welcome step and I haven’t read about this anywhere earlier. It’s only now I came to know this and I’m really happy.
    We need many more of this kind.
    Thank You
    Sai Kishore

  9. Hi Sai Kishore
    I myself heard of the cradle baby scheme only recently. In fact Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had widely supported and implemented it during her previous tenure. I am not too sure how effective and known the scheme is across the country though.
    Regards
    Vaishnavi

  10. Dear Vaishnavi,
    Thanks for responding…i wish reshma had acted little early….the baby could
    have been saved…i understand that there’s no point now in talking about what
    could have been done…really dont know what life she would have got even if
    she was saved…cant come to terms with her death…my heart bleeds for
    Baby Afreen…
    just out of curiosity…would like to know…what made you visit the Vani
    Vilas hospital…did you see Baby Afreen too…

  11. Dear Tabu
    I don’t know if Reshma could have done any more than she did. Looking at the circumstances. But yes, I guess there is no point in talking about it now. Hope other women who are facing what Reshma did, use her as an example.
    I am a reporter with a television news channel and was therefore following Afreen’s story very closely. I did see baby Afreen. Like I mention in the first para of my blogpost, she was absolutely beautiful. I spoke extensively to Reshma and her family and realised how much they were doing for the baby to survive, despite their poor financial condition. It is a story that really tears your heart. I have in fact been meaning to visit Reshma, just to speak to her, but think the family also needs some time alone to grieve.

  12. Dear Vaishnavi,

    I said this “i wish reshma had acted little early” coz it seems during the
    last three months that devil had assaulted the baby several times. If Reshma
    would have taken immediate action during the earlier assaults when he bit
    her/burnt her with cigarette butts/fed her laced biscuits, things would
    have been different today, I guess. At least the infant could have been
    spared of all the torture.

    And dear Vaishnavi, somehow the first para of your blogpost is not visible
    to me, for me your blogpost starts with the sentence “From the very first
    ay, I believed that Baby Afreen just like Falak should not survive.”
    Could you pleaseeee paste it here for me. And its nice and heartening to
    know that you are planning to visit Reshma. Please let us know about her
    well-being. Sorry for all the trouble dear.

  13. Dear Tabu
    Yeah, Reshma herself was a victim of domestic violence. Unfortunately, she seemed to have not really complained too much about it. The violence against the baby only happened 2-3 days before Afreen was taken to the hospital. And there were no cigarette burns as reported.
    Here’s the starting of my post – “I first saw her on April 9th. A beautiful baby. Fair skinned. Healthy looking. Ironic that she had several tubes coming out of her. A machine nearby beeped. The numbers read her heart rate and pulse.

    It makes me want to cry.

    As I spoke on my phone-in about the death of an almost three-month-old infant, Neha Afreen Banu, I could feel my eyes well up. I was following the baby’s story for three days and the end seemed to have come too soon.

    From the very first day, I believed…”

  14. Dear Mrs. Tabu and Vaishnavi Ma’am

    Firstly, I thank you for taking this discussion forward. I would like to add my view to your valued comments.

    I too believe strongly in the notion that Mrs. Reshma could have acted earlier and the result obtained would have been different from what had happened.

    But there are several reasons which might have prevented her doing so.

    (a) Lack of support : This might be the prime reason. A woman like Mrs. Reshma will definitely face certain hurdles once she steps out of her home with a baby. There are many NGOs working hard to support women of this kind but lot needs to be done in that field. Hence, I attribute lack of support as the first limitation.

    (b) Pressure from the family : When a woman doesn’t find anyone close to her in the family, it gets extremely tough for her to go out independently and succeed. Also, presence of a constant stress from the so-called near and dear may lead her to a trauma.

    (c) Being a woman : Even after sixty years of independence, I in some way feel that the women in India, particularly those belonging to the remote areas need more attention. They are caught in a web of unaddressed troubles and one of the reasons they feel isolated from the rest of the world is because of being a woman. How sad it is.

    (d) Lack of awareness : Women like Reshma require a lot of awareness about the various options provided by the society. As mentioned in the earlier comments, one of them is cradle scheme and there are also many more. Unfortunately, they are not popular.

    The list is endless. There are concerns in the public and solutions do exist at the same time. One needs to identify the right route to travel and everyone of us is equally responsible in lighting up the minds of people around us.

    I feel very sorry for Neha.

    May her soul respose in the abode of God.
    My thoughts and prayers lie with Reshma’s family during this tragic period.

    Vaishnavi ma’am, hereby I appreciate your work not as a journalist but as an individual for paying special attention and letting us know the entire proceedings.

    Please forgive me for posting a long comment. I was moved by the incident and your blog post posed me to express more.

    Thank You
    Sai Kishore

  15. Dear Vaishnavi,
    Am just waiting desperately to hear what punishment this devil gets. I think so far there is no progress in this case. Nothing in the news. Do you have any idea? Hope I am not troubling you…

  16. Sai Kishore,
    I agree with your points raised. And it is also quite valid in the case of Reshma.
    Tabu,
    The father is currently in judicial custody till the 5th of May.

  17. Dear Tabu

    Just thought I’ll post this here if it interests you.

    The Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls is an annual peaceful march, an initiative of San Francisco based film maker Nyna Pais-Caputi – (www.petalsinthedust.com), to protest atrocities of female foeticide/infanticide and to remember victims of this ‘gendercide’. The female to male ratio in India is alarming. The Bangalore Walk 2012, organized by Jacqueline Colaco, supporter of this cause and Hon. Treasurer, The Association of People with Disability, will be held on Saturday 5th May, starting at 3 pm from the Mosque on Mosque Road, Fraser Town to Coles Park via Coles and Saunders Roads, and will end with a gathering at Coles Park, where a panel of eminent speakers will share concerns on this grave issue. Ms. C. Manjula, Chairperson, Karnataka Women’s Commission will be the Guest of Honour. The walkers will specially pay homage to local victim Baby Afreen, who died in April, as a consequence of her father’s brutal assault and anger at her being a girl. Afreen’s victimized mother, a courageous woman, Reshma Banu, will be among the walkers and is on the panel of speakers. Many local NGOs and individuals are showing solidarity by participating in the walk and all the public are urged to join too!

    Regards
    Vaishnavi

  18. Dear Vaishnavi,

    Thanks so much….and sorry for the delayed response…actually, i am keeping a track of all the Bangalore city related news to see whats happening regarding this case….i too had read about the Walk and was also touched to read that Reshma would also be joining the Walk….today I read that the Walk did happen, but Reshma did not join…reasons unknown…hope she is fine and sticks to her resolve…doesnt give up…the culprit is still in judicial custody…no news in this regard…i hope this case is taken seriously and the culprit gets the deserved punishment.

    Thanks once again Vaishnavi for caring to let me know about this….i am eager to know everything regarding Baby Afreen’s case…so please keep me posted if you know of any developments in this case.

    Warm regards,
    Tabu

  19. Assalam u Alaikum,

    I am Maria Urooj from Karachi, Pakistan. I just read your blog while I am searching for Baby Neha Afreen Banu. I just read it few days ago and I am in severe pain. No words for it.

    It is humbly requested to you that kindly give me her Mother or Maternal Grandfather’s contact number/Address whatever you think is more suitable so that I can contact them.

    I will be highly grateful to you.

    Regards
    Maria Urooj

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