The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

es, those who killed my son were Mus­lims but ev­ery Mus­lim can­not be branded for this. Don't use me to spread com­mu­nal ten­sion, don't drag me into it. I ap­peal to ev­ery­one not to link this to re­li­gion and vi­ti­ate the at­mos­phere." Th­ese words were spo­ken by the fa­ther of Ankit Sax­ena, a 22-year-old Delhi photographer re­cently mur­dered by his girl­friend's par­ents, who op­posed the re­la­tion­ship. Ankit was Hindu and the girl's fam­ily are Mus­lim, a com­bi­na­tion that has led both the In­dian me­dia and In­dian politi­cians to dis­re­gard the griev­ing fa­ther's plea. In the days since the killing, Hindu na­tion­al­ists have taken to Twit­ter to whet their al­ready rag­ing fury against Mus­lims, un­abashedly us­ing a tragedy to birth many more tragedies.

It all be­gan, as things usu­ally do in con­tem­po­rary South Asia, with a mo­bile phone. The girl's brother looked through her phone and found in­ti­mate mes­sages that she had ex­changed with Ankit.

Can in­ter­faith mar­riages es­cape al­le­ga­tions that one side is us­ing ' emo­tional ap­peal' in an at­tempt to get the other to con­vert? This caused an up­roar within the fam­ily; the brother took the mo­bile phone to the fa­ther, who was en­raged that his daugh­ter was in­volved with a Hindu boy. He started to beat the girl, promis­ing that he would marry her off in no time. The girl's mother in­ter­vened and pre­vented the fa­ther from at­tack­ing the boy.

Things seemed to have calmed down to some ex­tent for the next sev­eral hours. That didn't last long. The next evening, the girl slipped out of the house and sent a mes­sage to Ankit to meet her at a metro sta­tion. The two had known each other for a while and had planned on hav­ing a court mar­riage in March. Ankit had even in­vited his friends to be wit­nesses. On her way out, she locked her par­ents and other fam­ily mem­bers in­side the house. They man­aged to break the lock and get out, sure that their daugh­ter had been ab­ducted.

All of them im­me­di­ately rushed to Ankit's house, which was only a short dis­tance away. There, a huge fight en­sued, with the girl's fam­ily ac­cus­ing Ankit of ab­duct­ing their daugh­ter. He de­nied the al­le­ga­tion and tried to calm things down, but the girl's fa­ther at­tacked him with a knife. When Ankit's mother tried to in­ter­vene, she was pushed aside. The girl's fa­ther, brother and un­cle were all present at this scene, and even­tu­ally the girl's fa­ther cut the young man's throat with a knife. Ankit, bleed­ing heav­ily, was rushed to a nearby hospi­tal. There he soon died of his in­juries.

All of this took place on a pub­lic street. In a CCTV video cap­tured just be­fore the at­tack, Ankit can be seen pac­ing the side­walk, speak­ing on his mo­bile phone. Cars and peo­ple are milling about all around him. Ac­cord­ing to his fa­ther, many peo­ple were present even when the at­tack took place. None paused or tried to in­ter­vene in the seven min­utes it took to per­pe­trate the at­tack. None of them tried to stop the at­tack­ers as they left the scene. On a busy pub­lic road in Delhi, at­tacks can take place and at­tack­ers can dis­ap­pear. In the days since the mur­der, the at­tack­ers have all been ap­pre­hended. The Is­lam­o­pho­bic fury that seethes just be­neath the sur­face in Modi's In­dia seems to have found a tar­get and a new nar­ra­tive. If the old nar­ra­tive had been that all Mus­lims are ter­ror­ists and af­fil­i­ated with this or that 'ji­hadist' group, the new nar­ra­tive is that even if they're not 'ji­hadists' they are mur­der­ers, ea­ger to do away with Hindu men at the slight­est pre­text.

It is just the sort of rhetoric that can whip up com­mu­nal frenzy to the point it be­comes dif­fi­cult to con­trol. None of that seems to have con­cerned those in charge. Arvind Ke­jri­wal, the chief min­is­ter of Delhi, vowed to avenge the death of Ankit Sax­ena and to hire the best lawyers to pros­e­cute the case. Mus­lim celebri­ties, for­ever on the de­fen­sive in Modi's In­dia, have tried to change the nar­ra­tive, to bring it back to the old ideas ac­cord­ing to which re­la­tion­ships of choice re­sult in crimes of ' hon­our'. In­dian crick­eter Mo­ham­mad Kaif tweeted, "What age are we liv­ing in? One can't love and marry the per­son of his/her choice and this is hap­pen­ing in an ur­ban city like Delhi. Real shame on the killers and jus­tice must pre­vail and more im­por­tantly mind­set needs to change. Peace­ful ka P bhi nahi raha."

Even if it may have been mo­ti­vated by dis­tanc­ing him­self from the ' bad' Mus­lims who com­mit­ted the grue­some act, Kaif's ques­tion is a cru­cial one. One pos­si­ble way in which it could be re­stated within the con­text of con­tem­po­rary In­dia is whether in­ter­faith mar­riages of choice can es­cape al­le­ga­tions that one or the other side is us­ing ' emo­tional ap­peal' in an at­tempt to get the other to con­vert. Even in rapidly ur­ban­is­ing South Asia, love mar­riages con­tinue to be frowned upon, but within the con­text of Modi's faith-ob­sessed In­dia they ap­pear im­pos­si­ble.

This level of ha­tred, though, where the crimes of one Mus­lim fam­ily are mag­ni­fied and politi­cised into brand­ing all Mus­lims as crim­i­nals - a ready and avail­able ex­cuse to jus­tify per­se­cu­tion and pogroms - is new. The fa­ther of Ankit Sax­ena, who has suf­fered the great­est loss, is re­fus­ing to give in to this sort of ha­tred and pro­pa­ganda. Amid so many com­mit­ted to hate, there is at least one griev­ing and suf­fer­ing fa­ther who re­fuses to give in.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.