Hyderabad: When Hyderabad was reeling from bomb blasts in 2007, Papalal who was working nearby found a little girl, then four-years-old, at the Gokul Chat Centre blast site. Papalal, a painter of Hindu Gods and Goddesses for temple walls, and his wife, Jayshree, figured out that the child was a Muslim and had been orphaned. They took her home where she lived with the couple. They had been childless for five years and they believed that her coming to their home as a firstborn brought them good luck and Jayshree soon became pregnant with their first biological child. She was their eldest child, they told everybody.
Once it became publicly known that a Muslim child was growing up in a Hindu family, Muslim groups asked the family to hand over the child to them. Papalal refused and asked how it could be a better option for the child to go to an orphanage. Muslim leaders intervened and relented, saying if the child is brought up as a Muslim, she can grow up in a Hindu family.
So Papalal agreed not to make the child wear a 'bindi' (a hindu religious symbol) and she would not be brought up as a Hindu. But their small neighbourhood in Chudibazaar area of Begum Bazaar objected to the 'Muslim' child growing up in a Hindu family and locality. Papalal went to the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). The SHRC ordered that the police must ensure the safety of the child and family.
After being ostracized by other families, Papalal's own brother decided to step in. It developed into a war of words and a physical fight between the brothers. On Thursday, he filed several police cases against Papalal including one that accuses him of an attempt to outrage modesty of his sister-in-law. (Post your comments here)
"My wife is nine months pregnant," Papalal said on Thursday. "What crime have I committed? Just of giving shelter to a Muslim girl...they will face the curse of this young child...is there no justice in this world?"
However, Papalal's mother said her elder son and daughter-in-law have put false cases under pressure on them because they do not want the girl to stay.
Papalal's brother also admitted that there was tremendous social pressure on the family over the girl and that is why the two brothers ended up fighting with each other.
Papalal was sent to jail even as local authorities agreed that Sonia belongs with this family.
"We found the couple fit and we are giving legal custody for three months pending some inquiries to declare the child free for adoption," said Isidore Phillips who heads the local Child Welfare Committee.
Following his arrest, a desperate wife pleaded for help. Speaking to NDTV, Jayshree said she is willing to die but will not give up on the child. "Let them do anything, today they have put my husband behind bars, tomorrow they might kill me, we are ready to die but we will never leave this girl," she said.
"I am very happy that they have given us custody of the child...but look at how they are harassing us with police cases," Jayshree added.
Civil activists in the city are now visiting the neighbourhood in an attempt to educate families there into supporting Papalal.