In village, some find Jamia firing hard to believe, others not so much

Amil Bhatnagar
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According to his school’s manager, the youth kept to himself and rarely spoke to peers or teachers. He joined the school six years ago.

The family of the 17-year-old involved in the Jamia shooting said they are still trying to understand what prompted him to pick up a weapon and target a protest. But at the boy’s village in UP’s Bulandshahr district, many who knew him say he was “quiet but angry, and held the firm belief that his religion was in danger”.

According to his school’s manager, the youth kept to himself and rarely spoke to peers or teachers. He joined the school six years ago. “But I don’t recall a single conversation which hinted towards such a radicalised side. He comes from a poor family which could barely afford his education. When we would ask about a career or future plans, he would remain quiet,” said the manager.

School staff said he had shown an interest in wrestling and had participated in some local tournaments, but dropped out due to lack of financial backing.

As villagers flocked to his house on Friday, the family maintained he was a “private person who did not share what he was thinking”.

“It might be possible that he felt angry about the fact that some people were harming the country and decided to do something about it. But to us, he was a disciplined child who sat at his father’s pan shop for two hours,” said a relative.

A few blocks down the minor’s house, however, amid a group of local Muslim youths, the conversation was different. They recalled that he had tried to pick arguments with them on more than one occasion.

“He would get into verbal arguments with us, try to make us feel like outsiders,” said one
of them.

Meanwhile, some fringe groups rushed to provide “support” to the youth and his family. Calling him a “hero”, Hindu Mahasabha national spokesperson Ashok Pandey said: “What he did had been on the minds of all those who want to protect the nation from those who want to break it.

Police will carry out their investigation, but for us he is a hero. When he comes out on bail, we will either plan a ceremony or garland him for his efforts.”

A Greater Noida-based NGO, Pran Raksha Dal, extended financial support to the minor’s family. “We presented a cheque to his father... Justice needs to be done,” said NGO member Gaurav Sharma. Though the boy has claimed links to the Bajrang Dal on Facebook, the outfit, however, denied this.