However, that’s not why the boy finds himself in the recent Naroda Patiya judgment that convicted 32. As the special court judge, Jyotsna Yagnik, observed, he stood out because the police claimed to have recorded his statement in the case. On February 28, 2002, the day of the massacre, Shoaib was all of 20 days old.
The police listed him as a “20-year-old” witness.
Making a detailed note of this in her observations on the investigation by the local police — before the SIT took charge — the judge said: “...Shoaib admittedly was of 20 days in the year 2002 and obviously no statement could have been recorded of this infant child... Still, in the material collected by the investigating agency, there is even a statement of this 20 days’ old child showing his age to be 20 years. This illustration shows the statements were also written in self-styled manner.”
The judge added: “The statement... is not to be held as indicative of the fact that the witnesses are lying. It, on the contrary, indicates that the record kept by the police while recording the statements was not correct, dependable and that the entire work was taken very lightly...”.
Shoaib’s mother Raziyabanu Shaikh said she was surprised when she got summons for her and Shoaib to appear before the court as witnesses. “I informed the policeman that my son could not be a witness because on February 28, 2002, he was a baby. Ultimately, it was decided — after some officers came to ascertain Shoaib’s age — that only I would depose before the court,” she said at her home in Naroda Patiya.
Raziyabanu said the cops had come to see them at VS Hospital and taken down notes. “I told them Shoaib’s age had been around 20 days at the time of the riots, as was evident. I don’t know why they recorded his statement as a 20 year old.”
She said she was at home with Shoaib, her fourth son, when the riots began. “My husband had gone to work when the mob started attacking the locality. To save our lives, we took shelter at some place when some mobsters poured acid and some inflammable liquid on us. My back and hands were burnt severely, so were the hands of little Shoaib. Still, I escaped. Then a rioter hit me with an iron pipe on the head and I fell half-conscious. I kept hearing cries of Shoaib who was lying on the ground,” said Raziyabanu.
Among those killed were her son Feroz and mother-in-law Fatima.
Now 10, Shoaib is a student of Class V at a government school. Raziyabanu said he remained very curious about the massacre. “Whenever we discuss it, he listens carefully and keeps asking for details.”