Combating Hate

Nargis Saifi: Fight of a wife and struggles of mother

Activist Khalid Saifi's Family Struggles for Justice and Endures Isolation Amidst Media Trial and Financial Hardships

Delhi/Bhopal: Khalid Saifi, a social activist was arrested on February 26, 2020, in the Khureji Khas locality of Delhi amid the Anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests. Later, three separate First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed against him. The 41-year-old activist has been in jail for 1190 days now.

Nargis Saifi, the wife of activist Khalid, in a heartfelt conversation with eNewsroom, shared her fight for justice and struggles to support family which has three children also but do not want to bow down before the unexpected challenge life threw on her.

Life Is A Challenge, without Khalid

It is an exhausting battle for justice for Nargis, a homemaker. She stands alone in her relentless pursuit to seek justice for her husband. Life has become challenging for her as a Muslim woman. Nargis never ventured out alone before Khalid’s arrest and now she is forced to do things independently including attending court hearings. “Every step I take is met with unwarranted scrutiny and questioning from others. The audacity of those who raise questions while failing to provide me with the necessary support is disheartening. However, I draw strength from my children and my husband. I will continue to fight for him as he vigorously fought for others,” said Nargis with determination.  

The couple’s communication is limited to five-minute phone calls thrice a week. “We don’t get to know each other’s well-being properly. He is diabetic with high blood pressure issues. His spirit remains unbroken despite the challenges and custodial torture he faced. He is innocent. I take immense pride in my husband and the other political prisoners, and I am honoured to be his wife,” Nargis proudly said. 

The repercussions of Khalid’s arrest have been deeply felt with relatives and friends distancing themselves from the family. “His arrest has isolated us in such a way that people avoid visiting or calling us with the fear of phone tapping and surveillance of our home,” her voice lowered in disappointment.   

Khalid’s absense has made it challenging for Nargis to single-handedly manage the household responsibilities and with financial difficulties. She has depend on the support of Khalid’s friends to sustain the family. “His once thriving tours and travel business has been utterly destroyed. I find myself completely dependent on others for covering my children’s tuition fees and managing essential household supplies,” said Nargis in grief. She continued that the business partners have distanced themselves from us. They never answered the calls.

social activist khalid saifi nargis anti-caa protests
Different posters demanding the release of Khalid Saifi, a political prisoners | Courtesy: Facebook/Nargis Khalid Saifi

Children Matured Before Time

As Khalid’s stay in jail gets longer, their young children have matured and learned to cope with the family’s difficulties. Nargis has to spend hours in Courtrooms and her absence, Yasa (14), the eldest of three kids, shoulders responsibilities such as cooking food and taking care of his siblings. “My kids have stopped going to relatives or attending functions because of stupid questions like, “Do you miss your Abbu?” It becomes a painful reminder amplifying their mental trauma. They are managing things by looking at my struggles. They had to grow up before time,” said Nargis, the mother of three children. The once cherished tradition of summer trips and weekend strolls, which Khalid lovingly organized, now remains a distant memory for Nargis and her children. 

Maryam (9), the youngest child shares a close bond with Khalid. “She was just 6 years old when Khalid was arrested. It was challenging for her but now she is at least satisfied that her Abbu has done nothing wrong. Besides, the other two Yasa and Taha (13), have been an active part of protests,” informed Nargis. 

February 26, The Fateful Day

Nargis recounted the day of her husband’s arrest. She said that Khalid was having breakfast when his phone abruptly rang, delivering the distressing news of a police attack at the protest. Citing the violence I dissuaded him from going but he reassured me, “Nothing will happen. I’ll be back.” Moments later, a group of people rushed to our home, informing me that Khalid had been arrested. His phone had been switched off. Initially, I held onto the hope that he had been merely detained. 

Late at night, Khalid called from an unknown number. There was palpable anguish in his voice, unlike anything I heard before. He conveyed that he was brought to Karkardooma Court and was transferred to Mandoli jail. “Just come to meet me tomorrow,” he said in a strained voice. The next day, I saw him in a wheelchair, bearing the marks of brutal torture. My heart sank with the gravity of his situation,” Nargis’s voice got heavy.

Khalid was walking when he was arrested by the police near the Khureji Khas protest site on February 26. He was brought in a wheelchair to Karkardooma court for a hearing on 11 March resembling custodial torture. “It is going to be a long battle. You must remain courageous and patient. Nobody will support me. Do not shed tears. Do not cry,” Nargis recalled Khalid’s words.

social activist khalid saifi nargis anti-caa protests mother
Mother of Khalid Saifi, demanding the release of her son | Courtesy: Facebook/ Nargis Khalid Saifi

Media Trial, The Worst Trauma

Nargis vividly recalls the distressing memory of Khalid’s alleged torture in custody where he was deprived of proper medical care, leaving his wounds to heal on their own. However, the media trial around Khalid’s case was the most devastating blow for Nargis and her children. “They broadcasted images of my husband on television with a label of terrorist. We immediately disconnected the television connection to this day. My 6-years-old daughter was asking questions. Although my children didn’t need much explanation because they have seen their father fighting for others just for the sake of truth and justice. My family was immensely disturbed and retreated ourselves within the confines of our home,” said Nargis. She continued that we removed social media and even stopped attending gatherings. In fact, people disconnected themselves from us after this media trial. “If it wasn’t Covid then this media trial may have taken any turn on us,” rued Nargis.

Activist’s Bail Order Reserved Since January

Advocate Tamanna Pankaj told eNewsroom that Khalid’s bail order is reserved since January, and the lawyers have moved a fresh application in the High Court to present additional arguments based on parity, given that the matter has been disposed of by the Supreme Court. The next hearing is scheduled for July 7th. “While I maintain faith in Allah there remains a sense of fear due to the prolonged delay in the legal proceedings,” said Nargis.  

According to the advocate, Khalid has been granted bail in FIR 44/2020 in which he was allegedly subjected to torture at the Jagatpuri Police Station and obtained both bail and discharge in FIR 101/2020 which was related to the Khajuri Khas case. Currently, FIR 59/2020 is pending which involves charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). 

The Delhi Police Crime Branch filed chargesheets against 15 individuals under FIR 59/2020, which pertains to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The chargesheets were related to the Delhi riots in 2020 which led to the death of 53 people including 38 Muslims and 15 Hindus. The riots broke out on February 23, 2020, in Northeast Delhi allegedly after the hate speech by BJP leader Kapil Mishra.

Khalid, In The Eyes Of A Friend

Advocate Tamanna, also a close friend of Khalid, was associated with United Against Hate (UAH) where she met him, a remarkably chilled person. Khalid bhai, as she fondly calls him. “He will hang out with you. He offers cigarettes and makes smoking companions. The first thing he will ask is do you smoke? He often delivers his messages to Nargis bhabi through me. Even, I love you, without hesitation. Tere Liye Koi Parchi Ki Zaroorat Nahi Hai (You don’t need a note),” as he always says,” Tamanna said with laughter.

Tamanna mentioned that Khalid bhai remains calm, always wearing a smile on his face regardless of circumstances. He consistently assists others and strives to ensure everyone receives proper representation. Khalid Bhai helped many people when he was free. Now people are reciprocating by aiding his family.

And wife Nargis, a fighter summed up, by saying, “Khalid Mere Liye Hain Aur Mein Unke Liye Hoon. Hum Dono Ke Pas Is Time Bas Itna Hi Hai Aur Kuch Nahi (Khalid is for me, and I am for him. At this moment, that’s all we have and nothing else).”

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