It was the second day of Karva Chauth. Tiwari Ji (Kamlesh Tiwari) and we were chatting when two people came. Wearing saffron clothes, holding sweets boxes in hands. He went to meet her. For a minute my eyes would blink. Opened, and they were gone. forever! Everything changed overnight after his murder. People started getting scared of having a relationship with us. I and the kids started getting threats.
A small police post has been built under the house where anyone could come and go night and night. Somebody comes from the maternal home, or the neighborhood – his belongings, and clothes are searched. When I go out myself, three gunners accompany me. They were murdered by them, we are living in captivity.’
In fact, on 18 October 2019, a Hindu leader named Kamlesh Tiwari of Lucknow was murdered. The killers first slit their throats and then shot them to make sure that there was no life left. Kamlesh was accused of hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community. After this murder, there was a lot of ruckus across the country.
Now about two and a half years have passed since that incident, but Kamlesh’s wife and their children are still living in the shadow of fear. Recently, on June 22, an unnamed envelope arrived at his house, in which the message of death was written in Urdu. Since then the security under his house has become more solid.
For a series of dark stories, we reached Khurshid Bagh Colony, Lucknow. Bakrid day! The markets were closed, but the smell of different types of attar was coming from every street intersection of the city-e-tehzeeb.
When I tried to book a taxi by entering the location, three cabs one after the other refused. ‘Madam, the place is very crowded, if you enter, you will not be able to leave.’ After much hesitation, a driver agreed, but the condition was that he would drop him at the Aminabad intersection. From there it was not difficult to reach Khurshid Bagh Colony. ‘Kamlesh Tiwari’s house’ was an address in itself, which everyone knew. Together with a deep look at whether these people are also ‘he ‘ or not!
There are pamphlets of Hindu unity under the house, along with another poster – Hang Kamlesh’s killers. The poster is quite old and is crumbling in one or two places, which testifies to the wounds of the deceased man’s wife.
When Kiran Tiwari of middle age talks about the death of her husband Kamlesh Tiwari, her face looks flatter than the walls of her house. No sense! Tired of speaking, but suddenly she weeps speaking.
Kiran says – The whole life was in a veil. Home, husband, and children were my worlds. After he left, he had to sit in the office. When I see the garland in the photo, I feel heartburn. It would have been better if I had gone with him too.
Kiran recalls in a Bhojpuri-mixed tone – we and Tiwari Ji were talking when Bullaua came from below. The office is on the ground floor. Tiwari Ji said that I will come in a while. We had a nap in no time. Eyes opened with the whistle of the cooker. When we reached the room after closing the pulse, the son was crying. Seeing us, he started saying – Mom, someone went away after killing Papa!
A day earlier, Kiran was looking at the wall saying she had kept a fast for his long life. Expected dry eyes. On whose strength the house used to run because of which we used to laugh and cry, they have gone. What does it mean to live now?
Sitting silently, I grope Kiran. What do you tell me after that? Had he been alive today, he would have been married for 25 years. I always wore a veil to my chin. Decorating a red dot and thick vermilion on her forehead, she would cook, eat and serve her mother-in-law. Did this for years. Then suddenly he left.
I didn’t know anything. How much money is there in the house? What vegetables will be cooked at the night? He used to take care of all these things. Now all I had to do. The crying children had to be silenced. Had to arrange money. The biggest thing was to get justice for them. To me, it was as if a child who had just learned to walk was made to stand in a long run.
Imagine, a woman living in a village environment, who had never even worked in a bank, now had to run the whole house. I did not know how much balance the husband had, where the land was, or where the money was owed. Couldn’t ask for money from home. She could not put the burden on the children studying in her in-laws’ house including herself. That’s how everything was handled.
Saying this, Kiran looks towards the house. I look with his eyes – at an old-fashioned house, the walls of which have become damp and dilapidated with time. Matchbox-like kitchen and dark-narrow stairs leading down to the first floor. Between the wide roads of Khurshid Bagh Colony and the wide houses, this house seems a bit mismatched, like a dirty wooden stool, which should be kept in the bathroom of foreign lines.
They have lots of money. The case was transferred to Prayagraj. 200 km from Lucknow. If I go on trial, there is a danger to my life. There are many big lawyers on his side in the court. They have access to Delhi. We are only getting posters that the killers of Kamlesh Tiwari should be hanged. Now he doesn’t even have money.
Aw, this is also someone to live with! For years, the woman who went to the market to buy vegetables and vegetables, who loved to buy clothes, now cannot leave the house. Kiran tells only laughing.
Since the year 2019, I have not done Haat-Bazaar. Even if you want to go to the square, then three gunners are ready to go along. Come out, everyone looks strangely. So I stopped going somewhere. And now people are also afraid to invite me to their homes. Three people will belong to the family, so there will be three soldiers along with them. Food will be prepared for 6 people. Now people rarely call. Even if I go, I come back in a few nights.
Kiran suddenly stops and says – they killed them. We are living in captivity. Now it seems that as long as one has to live, one has to remain in captivity.
Threats come anytime. Sometimes from Pakistan, sometimes from Bangladesh, and sometimes on social media. It is said that the hell in which your husband was sent, he will also take you there. At first, I was scared. It’s a habit now. The work which Tiwari Ji left behind, we will complete together. To die is to die. She says slowly.
After that, we go to the inner room to meet the youngest son Mridul. This 18-year-old boy is sitting quietly. On the matter of the interview, he says shyly – you have talked to your mother! After a while, he agrees to talk but becomes silent as soon as the camera is turned on.
Then it says – everything changed after the father’s departure. There was no one to hear or understand. I was small too. Crying or getting angry all day. Gradually, when I started going to school, everything changed there too. The rest of the children would go with papa-mom, and I would reach with the gunner. Children laugh. Commenting. Shame on us too. Friends didn’t talk.
Now learned to ignore – says Mridul. Let’s add further- I think that life would have been better if there was a father. If they are not, then it is very lacking.
When I reach downstairs after leaving, I find that Kiran is looking at the visitor’s register with the policemen. She says in a complaining tone – if anyone comes, do not send them up after getting an entry. Call us first to find out if we want to meet or not. The police had a complaint that when Mridul’s friends come, they refuse to enter. They want to go straight up.
Seeing me standing, Kiran says – What is there now, this is it. How much will the children believe!
Tried to talk to the policemen posted there on all this, but could not. This was not possible due to security reasons.
Kiran is not alone in sharing her pain! There will be many such cases in the country where religious hysteria has sometimes taken the life of a man, sometimes a child, or a woman. There will be thousands of cases where one religious belief has absorbed the other. And there may be lakhs of cases where riots do not erupt in the name of religion, but the ink of hatred has started to dissolve in the hearts. That ink, from which not shining history, but stories drenched in blood will be written, if we do not manage in time.