The dignity and grace, with which Sartaj has handled his father Mohammad Akhlaq's gruesome death at the hands of a mob in Dadri and the misery that has visited his family, is simply amazing. If he had chosen to be bitter and sour, it would have been understandable. The young Indian Airforce (IAF) corporal has resisted the temptation to allow the events of last week shake his faith in society and the country. When he says, "Sare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara", you know it comes straight from his heart.
Sartaj is not the only one who stands out on account of his dignity and conduct. Many residents of the same Dadri village where Sartaj's father was lynched, merely on the suspicion of having eaten and storing beef, shielded and protected more than 70 Muslims from falling prey to the communal madness that appeared to have overtaken a section of the village. They deserve to be commended as well. They proved that there is still a lot of goodness left in our people, despite the best efforts of some of our politicians and purveyors of hate to weaken the social fabric.
Contrast this with the callous and almost provocative utterances of the likes of Union minister Mahesh Sharma and Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay. "He (Mohammad Akhlaq) was killed on the suspicion that he had eaten beef," wrote Vijay, in an attempt to paper over what had transpired. His insensitive remarks invited a howl of protests from the civil society. Vijay, in his personal life, especially when he is not speaking before the media, comes across as sensible and sometimes even likeable. But his reaction to the lynching shocked even some of his friends and supporters.
It really is a sad commentary that at a time when we are trying to convince the world that India has emerged as a mature, responsible and tolerant country, we have incidents like Dadri which fly in its face. Unfortunately, in India more people have died in the name of religion than due to disease. Consuming the kind of food one wants is a personal choice. I don't eat pork or ham but I am certainly not going to harm, leave alone kill somebody for eating it.