BANGALORE: After Delhi’s battered baby Falak who died at AIIMS last month, India added yet another shameful chapter to the story of battered and unwanted girl children on Monday when three-month-old Hina, smothered and poisoned by her father who did not want a girl child, was admitted to a hospital’s ICU struggling for survival. Doctor’s said chances of her survival appeared slim.
Hina’s (name changed) father Umar Farooq was arrested on Monday and according to the police he has confessed trying to kill his daughter. Reshma Banu, Hina’s anguished mother, recalled how her husband Umar sent her on Friday to buy biscuits and then stuffed poison-laced food into the infant’s mouth to get rid of her.
“I was surprised when he said he’d feed the baby,” said Reshma, adding, “I was shocked by his sudden love for the child. He took the milk bowl from me, gave me money, and sent me to the nearest shop. I thought he had changed and would start loving our daughter.”
A suspicious Reshma, however, returned quickly and saw Umar wipe the baby’s mouth with blood on it. “I asked him what happened, but he said nothing. Suddenly my daughter started vomiting blood. I realised he might have poisoned her,” Reshma said.
On noticing that Hina was breathless, Reshma took money from her mother-in-law and rushed to a hospital. “We returned home after the doctor gave her medicines,” she said.
But the worst was yet to come. Umar then allegedly tried to smother the sleeping infant. Reshma said she woke up around four am and switched on the light to see Umar trying to smother the child. “He had pressed the pillow against her face. I called my mother and brother-in-law and shifted her to Bowring Hospital,” recalled Reshma with a shudder.
Now that Umar is under arrest, Reshma says there’s no point to returning to him. “I wasn’t ready to marry him as he was a divorcee and we had huge age difference. It was because of family pressure that I married him. He turned out be an alcoholic and drug addict. He’d say that I’d have to give him Rs 1 lakh if I gave birth to a girl,” she said, adding “I was carrying twins. Sadly, one got aborted during my second month of pregnancy.”
The police have booked Umar for attempt to murder and section 23 of juvenile justice act. “He confessed he tried to smother the sleeping child. We strongly suspect he was drunk when he attacked his daughter,” said a police officer.
Nina Nayak, chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, told TOI that the commission would speak to Reshma on Tuesday. “It’s a barbaric act. How can a father do this to his child? We’ll record the mother’s version and investigate the crime thoroughly,” Nayak said.
Afreen’s father ‘wanted a boy’
The father of three-month-old Afreen, who is battling for life in a hospital here, confessed to the police that he tried to kill the child because he “wanted a boy and not a girl”.
Umar Farook (25), who was arrested on Sunday evening after the condition of his daughter Afreen hit the headlines, also confessed to having attempted to murder her on several earlier occasions, said the police.
Meanwhile, Afreen continues to be in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit of Vani Vilas Hospital. “The child is on ventilator and life support medicines. She is having convulsions and is being treated for it, under sedation, round the clock,” said Gangadhar Belvadi, Professor and Head of the Department of Paediatrics at Vani Vilas Hospital. Ophthalmological tests have revealed a bilateral retinal haemorrhage, he added. The gruesome case is reminiscent of the torture and abandonment of the baby, Falak, in Delhi recently. Afreen was brought to the hospital on Sunday with a severe head injury and deep bite marks on the thigh and buttocks. She is in a coma. Scans revealed that the child had bleeding on the outer surface of the brain (haemorrhage). The mother, Reshma Bhanu (19), had accused her husband of causing the injuries.
The police dismissed reports that questioned the mental state of Farook. A police official in the K.G. Halli police station, where the father is currently lodged, said that he was “mentally stable” and had made up his mind to kill his daughter since her birth. He had on a previous occasion tried to suffocate her by forcing a cloth down her throat.
Ms. Bhanu, who said that the child and she herself had suffered abuse at the hands of her husband, said he had been assaulting the child for the past three months.
Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Bhanu said that the family had already spent over Rs. 30,000 on the child’s treatment and was fast running out of money. “I don’t know what to do if more money is required. We have even pawned the gold we had kept aside for my sister,” she said. The arrest of her husband is of no solace to her at the moment. “Right now, I want my child to survive,” she said.
Nina P. Nayak, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, visited the hospital on Monday.
In New Delhi, Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights described the incident as “shocking” and said an inquiry will be conducted.
“Really, it’s shocking, alarming… the man has to be booked for attempting to murder the child,” Ms. Sinha said. “We will certainly call for an inquiry… but I think somewhere the government has to keep a watch on every girl born.”