For nearly a week, the three-month-old fought as hard as she could in hospital, despite a father who established through brute force that she was unwanted. This morning, Baby Afreen died 30 minutes after a cardiac arrest in a government hospital - the third that she visited in the last seven days with her teenaged mother. She was buried later in the day.
Baby Afreen's father, Umar Farooq, was arrested on Sunday for allegedly assaulting his only child. He has reportedly confessed to the police that he hit his only child because he had wanted a son. Afreen's mother, Reshma Bano, is 19 years old. She has offered conflicting accounts of how often her husband hit the baby.
But last week, with her baby bruised and bitten, Reshma rushed to hospital. Afreen arrived at Bangalore's Vani Vilas hospital three days ago, with bleeding and swelling in her brain. This morning, doctors say, she slipped into a coma after a series of convulsions that began last evening. Doctors have been circumspect about revealing the details of the physical abuse she suffered, but they say she had bite marks and burns. Yesterday, they said they would need three weeks to determine her chances of survival.
Reshma's mother told NDTV yesterday that if God saved Afreen, she would ensure that the child was looked after. "We don't have much money...but we will bring her up....we will not let her be with her father."
Her parents say Farooq had a record of beating Reshma. Policemen dissuaded them from registering a complaint. "Give him a chance, let them work it out," was the advice they allegedly offered to Reshma's father, Abdul Karim.
Afreen's story is the nightmarish sequel to that of Baby Falak, the two-year-old who died in a Delhi hospital after battling brain damage and three cardiac arrests. Falak was brought to hospital by a teenager who allegedly burnt her with a hot iron, bit her, and smashed her head against a wall. Falak had been separated from her mother, and passed around among a ring of adults in Delhi who ran a prostitution racket. Falak's mother was traced to Rajasthan and visited her child in hospital once before the baby passed away.