'5 years on, netas still to compensate for my son's death'

News of four NCP workers who died while campaigning reopens wounds of 55-year-old who lost her young son after he fell from the top of the bus he was made to sit on to attend a rally of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi

When 55-year-old Jabina Begum heard of the four NCP workers who were electrocuted while campaigning for a party candidate in Thane on Sunday, it was as if someone had jabbed a raw nerve, evoking the agony of her own bereavement.

For the sake of appearances: Sagir's kin say he was made to attend
the Congress rally during which he lost his life to add to the crowd and
impress the public. Pic/Datta Kumbhar 

Five years ago, Begum's 20-year-old son Mushahid Sagir fell to his death in an odd accident during pre-election campaigning.

He was asked to sit on the roof of a crowded bus on its way to a rally of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He fell from the top, busted his head, and died five days later.

Ever since, with the calendared regularity of elections, arrive the reminder of death and the hollow promises of politicians.

Same sop story 
Begum was inconsolable when she learnt of the deceased NCP workers, and 11 others injured. Then came the automated responses from politicians -- some words of condolence, a few lakhs in compensation.

She heard these with the dull familiarity of one who has run the gamut of pre-poll atmospherics.

She was made similar promises, but none was made good. In the last five years, no party leader from the Congress remembered or cared to call on her in her Govandi residence. Nor did any compensation package arrived or was even formally announced.

"It is unfortunate that Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul speak of welfare of the poor and visit their houses, but their leaders in Mumbai don't even stick to their promises," said Feroz Khan (32), Sagir's cousin.

On Monday, Begum and her family gatecrashed an event attended by senior Congress leader Rashid Alvi, and accosted him before he could enter the venue.

Alvi assured her that he would look into the matter.

He said he would speak to Congress city chief Kripashankar Singh, whom the family had approached earlier but in vain. Begum heard his promise, yet another one.

'Forced to attend'
Sagir's elder brother Mushir (30) said, "My brother would never attend any political rallies. But on December 23, 2006, he was asked to accompany a crowd that left Govandi to attend a public gathering being addressed by Sonia Gandhi. Since the bus was packed, my brother and a few other young boys were made to sit on its roof.

When the bus reached the venue, my brother tumbled down from the top along with a few others; his head banged against the road divider and started bleeding profusely. For the next five days, he fought for his life at KEM hospital. But he couldn't win the battle."

Mushir added, "He had appeared for his Std X examination the same year. On the day he died, his mark sheet arrived; he had passed."

One of Begum's relatives said, "We lost everything in that election campaign. Sagir was asked to join Gandhi's rally to give an impression of popular support. The rally would not have been house-full had all the slum dwellers not been forcibly made to attend it."

Other than the emotional turmoil, practical considerations are bearing down on Begum the future of her family. A heart patient herself, she has a nubile daughter, and she misses a helping hand.

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