All of 12 years, Abhay was stripped off his childhood on April 2. During the Bharat Bandh called to protest the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, police picked up the boy in Meerut.
Now out on bail, he is trying to erase the mental and emotional scars that spending “two months and six days” in a juvenile home gave him.
“I was returning home from my aunt’s place. The police asked my name and caste and took me away. At the juvenile home, I cleaned the toilets and swept the premises,” he said.
Now, he is just trying to focus on studies. “What has happened has happened. My father told me to put it behind me,” said Abhay, who belongs to the Jatav community.
According to a preliminary fact-finding report by National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) on scheduled caste children arrested on April 2, false charged were slapped against the boy and his parents were initially not even informed of the arrest.
Unlike Abhay, 17-year-old Karan feels “scarred for life”. Also belonging to the Jatav community, the imprisonment put the brakes on the Class 10 student’s education. “They sent me to the juvenile home after I spent 14 days in jail,” he said.
Karan said he was going to buy raw materials for their small-scale family business when the police beat him up and took him away. Unsure of what the future holds for him, he nervously asked if sharing his story would make the situation worse for him. For now, he hopes the charges against him are dropped.
Amit and Aftab regret leaving home that day. Amit, 13, claimed he was on his way to buy medicines for his differently-abled mother when he was arrested. “I was taken aback when they picked me up from near the university,” he said. The NDMJ’s report says the boy’s family was not allowed to meet him till he got bail on June 19.
Aftab, 17, spent two months in jail before he was shifted to a juvenile home. He got bail on September 11. “They have slapped five cases against me,” he said.