NDTV impact: Couple who sheltered Muslim girl nominated for award

Hyderabad:  Earlier this month, NDTV had reported about how a Hindu couple fought fundamentalist forces to give life to a Muslim girl, Sonia, orphaned during the 2007 Hyderabad blasts. After days of being subjected to harassment, Papalal and Jayshree have now been nominated for National Communal Harmony award by the National Commission for Minorities.

Papalal found a little girl, then four-years-old, at the Gokul Chat Centre blast site and figured out that the child was a Muslim who had been orphaned. He and his wife took little Sonia home where she lived with the couple. They had been childless for five years and believed that her coming to their home as a firstborn brought them good luck. Jayshree soon became pregnant with their first biological child. She was their eldest child, they told everybody.

Once it became publicly known that a Muslim child was growing up in a Hindu family, Muslim groups asked the family to hand over the child to them. Papalal refused and asked how it could be a better option for the child to go to an orphanage. Muslim leaders intervened and relented, saying if the child is brought up as a Muslim, she can grow up in a Hindu family.

So Papalal agreed not to make the child wear a ‘bindi’ (a hindu religious symbol) and she would not be brought up as a Hindu. But their small neighbourhood in Chudibazaar area of Begum Bazaar objected to the ‘Muslim’ child growing up in a Hindu family and locality.

However, despite all this Papalal and his wife continued to face the wrath from the Hindu and Muslim communities. He was even sent to jail on the basis of cases aimed at harassing him till he gave up Sonia. Even his own brother turned against him.

Papalal’s mother later admitted that tired of being ostracized by extension, her younger son accused Papalal of attempting to molest his wife.

Soon the State Human Rights Commission stepped in and accorded the couple some respite.

They were asked to produce Sonia before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a body constituted under the Juvenile Justice Act. The CWC declared Jayashri as the one who is fit to retain the child for three months.

A probationary officer from the Women and Child Welfare department would visit the couple during the period to check as to how she is raising the child and would submit a report to the Women and Child Welfare department, it was decided.

(source: ndtv.com)


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