Mayhem at Mahagun: Uncloaking the truth
by Manisha Agrawal Narain on 27 Jul 2017 12 Comments

On 11th June 2017 a 500-strong frenzied Bangladeshi mob, shouting slogans (“izzat loot lo”, “bache ke tukde tukde kar do”, “kapde faar do”) and armed with iron rods, stones, and flower pots charged into the Mahagun Moderne Society in Noida, UP. The mob destroyed the guard room, forcibly entered the society, and broke into an apartment. It almost lynched the sleeping 7-year-old Aryan along with his parents, a young couple in their early thirties.


What was their fault? They confronted a maid stealing monies, which the latter admitted, before running away. It later transpired that she went to the apartment of an old lady in the same society and requested for a night-stay on grounds of feeling unwell, without disclosing the previous confrontation.  Oblivious of this incident, the old lady allowed a night’s stay and both had dinner together and slept in the same room.


When our fact-finding team from GIA (Group of Intellectuals and Academics) met the victim family the next day, this was the scene that met our eyes: Seven year old Aryan who woke up to the mayhem inside his bedroom refused to eat or speak or to even look at anyone. His mother could not stop shivering and constant fits of crying, and father brooded in silence.


Most of the media has painted the story in lurid colours of rich vs. poor, camouflaging the fact that the people it calls “rich” were totally helpless and powerless in front of the designated “poor” mob that was well-armed and willing to extract retribution at any cost. The “rich” who struggled to keep their son alive were utterly helpless and powerless before that mob.


It is useless to speculate why the media projected only one side of the story. Daily articles continue to show the maid’s narrative which has been proven false by CCTV footage. To balance the narrative, we present the following narrative as experienced and recounted by 32-year-old Harshu, on whose family this mob broke loose.


Harshu is a 32- year-old school teacher. She is visibly lean, soft and gentle to talk with. She lives in an apartment in the Mahagun Moderne Society with her husband and seven-year-old son, Aryan. Harshu described the family’s ordeal during the events of the previous day and that day with great difficulty, shivering and crying every few minutes. Following is her story in chronological order:


-        For some time she had observed that money and other expensive items were disappearing from her home. The disappearances were always at the time when their maid Zohra was working in the house. Then one day, when Zohra’s presence in the house coincided with a theft of Rs. 17000/- cash, Harshu decided to confront her without alleging anything.


-        On 11 July, at 5.10 p.m., when Zohra arrived, Harshu told her that the said amount had been stolen and that thanks to a CCTV camera, she knew how it was stolen. On hearing this, Zohra started apologizing. Convinced that Zohra was the culprit, Harshu asked her to accompany her to the facility and talk to the management, as she did not want similar incidents to occur with the other families where Zohra worked. Zohra then whisked out her phone and started talking and messaging on it.


-        Once she was done, Harshu asked her to wait and went inside to fetch her dupatta. To ensure that she did not run away, Harshu kept Zohra’s phone with her. But when Harshu came back to the drawing room, Zohra had already run away without waiting for her phone. Maids standing in that cluster told Harshu that Zohra had run away. So Harshu went alone to the facility office and informed them about the entire episode.


-        At 8.10 pm the same day, Zohra’s husband rang the bell of Harshu’s apartment. He was accompanied by two guards of the society and asked her about his wife. He added that Zohra has not entered her ‘exit’ in the society’s register and was therefore inside the society. He said no one has seen or heard from Zohra since the evening.


-        Worried about Zohra, Harshu asked them to check with other flats where she worked. But Zohra’s husband launched a verbal attack on Harshu saying that Zohra had had a fight with Harshu, and Harshu had kept Zohra’s phone.


-        Harshu was surprised to hear this, as it contradicted his own statement that ‘no one has seen or heard from Zohra since evening.’ Still, she advised them to look at all houses where Zohra works as Zohra had left from her flat in the evening only.


-        The family retired around 11 p.m., with only Harshu awake and watching television in bed. Suddenly, Zohra’s husband arrived with two police constables to look for Zohra. Harshu and her husband, Mitul, repeated the events to the police. The police assured the couple, scolded Zohra’s husband and led him away. The family was disturbed but tried to sleep as they had to work the next morning. 


-        12 July: The next morning, July 12, the family got a call from an old lady who lived alone in an apartment on the top floor of the building. She informed them that Zohra had slept at her place at night, on the pretext of being under difficulty. She said that Zohra had dinner with her, then slept in the same air-conditioned room with her, had morning tea, and left thereafter. She said that while giving shelter to Zohra, she was completely ignorant of the previous day’s incident as Zohra did not utter a word about it. Zohra was calm and normal when she knocked the old lady’s door, and remained so till she left. She added that she has now been found by the guards, and they are taking her to the main-gate of the society where some ruckus is going about this. 


-        On learning of the ruckus outside the society’s gates, Harshu and Mitul went to the gate where a large crowd was shouting slogans. The neighbours were trying to talk to the mob. They told the young couple not to worry and go back home and get ready for  office and school. So they returned to their apartment.


-        On reaching home, Harshu went to the washroom.


-        On coming out a few minutes later, she saw a mob charging into her home from both sides (all outer and inner walls of the Society are made of glass, in the style of French windows, but without any muntin bars). The mob was armed with iron rods, stones, flower pots etc. They had broken off branches from the trees outside the apartment, on the road-medians. One person lifted a flower-pot and threw it at her son’s bedroom’s outer glass wall. The glass wall shattered and the mob started rushing in through it.


-        Young Aryan was sleeping in the same room. Harshu and Mitul just managed to pull the sleeping child to his feet and rush outside the room even as the mob chanted, “tokde tukde kar do bache ke”, “aurat ki izzat loot lo”, “is aurat ko kahi ka nahi chhorenge”, “maar daalo sabko” etc. (“cut the child into pieces”, “rape the lady”, “won’t leave the lady”, “kill everyone” etc.)


-        Zohra and other women were part of this mob that was charging into their home.


-        Fearing for their lives, the couple ran with the child and locked themselves in the lobby bathroom. The bathroom is the only place in the house which has cemented walls.


-        Thereafter, the mob vandalized the apartment and kept hitting the bathroom door to break it open. However, some police constables and neighbours entered the house and started calming down the mob. Seeing the police, the mob finally left.


-        Still devastated by the events, Harshu wept, “Now that the mob knows our faces and our home, they can kill my son or attack me with acid or cause any harm to us”.


We spoke briefly with young Aryan and met many residents of the society. One thing was clear. This was not a case of POWER versus POVERTY as portrayed by the media. If a “poor” armed mob can break into a property, it must be seen as an act of aggression. And if an allegedly “rich” family has to lock itself inside a bathroom in a desperate bid to save its life, there can be no doubt as to who was powerless and helpless.


Subsequently, there have been stories that the perpetrators of the violence were possibly illegal immigrants who nevertheless managed to possess ration cards, voter Id cards, perhaps even Aadhaar cards. Unless the Indian government manages to weed out the corruption that makes this possible, all citizens will increasingly become unsafe even in the ‘safety’ of their own homes. Meanwhile, Indian media should try to find out the truth and report events factually, rather than editorialise news in false dichotomies of rich vs. poor. It’s credibility is questioned almost every day.


The author is an advocate

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