The year is 1999, a Urmila Matondkar starring movie is just released, titled ‘Kaun’. Based on a woman serial killer, who kills everyone who visits her home, the movie created a rift in India. How can women be portrayed as killers?
This mindset changed in 2008. Shabnam, who belonged to the Saifi Muslim community, living in Bawankhedi, a village in Hasanpur tehsil of Amroha in western Uttar Pradesh killed seven of her family members with her lover Saleem.
The gruesome tale begun when Shabnam’s parents opposed to her love for Saleem who was from pathan community. Apparently, one contention was that Shabnam, who has a double post graduation in Geography and English, fell in love with a school dropout. Saleem worked as a carpenter in a shop near her house, whereas Shabnam worked as a Shiksha Mitra (government school teacher).
The ‘7 Khoon’ tale :
As per the investigation, on 14th April 2008, Shabnam mixed a drug in the milk of her family members-her mother, father, two brothers, sister-in-law, cousin. She sedated all six members of her family, leaving just a baby, her nephew Arsh. Afterward, Saleem came in and chopped off their heads with an axe while Shabnam held them by their hair. Shabnam then went on to choke her 10-month old nephew to death.
A manhunt was instituted for them, after the neighbours found their bodies. Shabnam and Saleem, who were both in their 20s, were arrested 5 days later. In December that year Shabnam gave birth to a son.
Within two years a sessions court in Amroha found them guilty and sentenced them to death. The next year, Allahabad high court upheld the verdict, so did the Supreme Court of India in 2015. Shabnam’s son Taj filed a mercy petition for his mother with the President of India this February. All her previous petitions were rejected by the Uttar Pradesh Governor and President of India’s Office. In January of last year, a Supreme court bench headed by CJI SA Bobde upheld the death sentence.
If executed, Shabnam could be the first Woman ever to hanged in Independent India. Only one jail in India, the Mathura Jail, is equipped to handle Hangings of Women convicts. But will take some time as the perpetuators have fully exhausted all legal measures. Under the law, if multiple people have been sentenced to death in the same case, they have to be executed together. So, Shabnam and Saleem can be hanged only after both of them exhaust all their legal recourses.
Initially, Shabnam claimed that she was the one who had raised the alarm concerning her family’s murder. She had, in the beginning, claimed that unknown assailants had entered her home and killed all seven of her family members for the property. However, throughout the trial, the couple tried to malign each other. In the 2015 Supreme Court statement, Shabnam claimed, Saleem had entered the house with a knife through the roof and killed all her family members, when she was asleep. Saleem, on the other hand, said he reached the house “only on the request of Shabnam”. When he reached there, she confessed to having killed them.