Written by Gaurav Adhikari
A tea vendor in Lucknow Aiku Lal Sandil finds a Muslim boy abandoned at a garden near his tea stall, when asked about his whereabouts the boy only remembers his name as Akbar, Aiku reports to police but the police were unable to trace the boy’s parents as there was no complain registered on missing of a three year old boy in any of the police station all over the state.After loosing hope police advice Aiku to shift the boy to an orphanage, Aiku refuses and brings up the boy on his own, Aiku has merge income but ensures the boy gets proper education and also retains Akbar’s religion by taking him to a muslim clerk and making the child learn Quran and read Namaz daily. Soon a lovely relationship blossoms between a hindu man and a muslim boy and they both form a family of their own.
But their world turns upside down when the boy’s biological parents turn up and seek the custody of boy, but the boy refuses saying Aiku is his father-mother and wants to stay with aiku, but the boy’s biological parents go to court to claim akbar’s custody. But court pronounces judgement in favor of Aiku and acknowledges aiku’s upbringing of the boy by retaining his religion and providing education. During court proceedings we get insights about the life of aiku as how he was brought up with love an care by a Muslim family in spite of him being a Hindu.Fourteen-year-old Akbar’s appeal to the judge to let him remain with his Hindu guardian instead of transferring him to his Muslim mother has shot Aiku Lal Sandil to national headlines. However, for the tea vendor from Baradari, Lucknow, taking in Akbar wasn’t something he thought twice about. Having been raised by a Muslim man himself, Sandil couldn’t just look away when he found the six-year-old lost boy in a Lucknow park eight years ago.
“I am a Hindu brought up by a kind Muslim man. When I found Akbar, it was like God telling me that it is time to return the love and care I got from His people. I was never forced to change my religion and, having got that education from my guardian, it was my duty to take care of the child and bring him up as per his own religion,” Sandil says.
The bond the two share was acknowledged by the Allahabad High Court in January 2008 when it turned down Akbar’s biological mother Shahnaz Begum’s habeas corpus petition. Shahnaz had argued that since Akbar was a Muslim, if Sandil raised him, it would “create dichotomy and disharmony in the social sphere and in their relationship”.
Dismissing her petition, after Akbar said he wanted to live with Sandil rather than his parents, Justice Barkat Ali Zaidi said India is a secular country where the consideration of caste and creed should not be allowed to prevail. “…If there can be inter-caste marriages… there can also be an inter-caste ‘father and son’ relationship and that need not raise eyebrows,” the judge said.