Why Ankit Saxena's murder has been easily forgotten

Is it because his father refused to allow the killing to be politicised?

 |  4-minute read |   21-03-2018
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A Hindu father appealed to keep the peace in West Delhi, in the wake of the killing of his only child, a 23-year-old son at the hands of the family of his Muslim beloved.

Astonishing that it was made in the heat of the moment, not in the cool of hindsight. Heartening that this sane voice came from the urban sprawl of janata flats in Raghubir Nagar.

Increasing instances of inter-caste and inter-faith relationships go hand in hand with hardened caste and religious identities. Then what is out of sync? Has anything changed since the runaway marriages of Anees and Sumitra or Jayanti and Javed in the 1960s?

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Yash Pal and Kamlesh Saxena’s home is a single 12x15 sq ft space with aquamarine walls, barely room enough for a largish double bed covered with a threadbare bedspread of red and white squares. The word love's printed in every white square. A plank on the wall serves as a shelf for some small brown bottles of medicine, two plastic boxes with strips of capsules, a makeshift temple with attendant tinsel and a few decaying marigolds. A ramshackle cooler stands on guard over a tired top-load washing machine leaning, as if for support, on an aging 100 litre fridge.

Yash Pal, a retired water pump technician, of medium built with a kindly demeanour, stood up from the sole chair to welcome us, but his wife Kamlesh looked too weak and distraught to move from the bed or bother with such niceties.

Suffering from a chronic heart condition, Yashpal said that his wife suffered from the after-effects of a recent hysterectomy. “Ankit was a flourishing photographer. He supported our surgeries, even bought an air conditioner for this room. We have lost the sole breadwinner of the family.

"Now we only have the support of our Muslim neighbours. We eat together every evening, often from shared thalis, six to eight people on this bed. For how long? I cannot say. My ‘zameer’ did not allow me to harbour or spread animosity against a community - these are not my ‘sanskar’.”

A 2x3 inch colour photograph of Ankit, with a garland of plastic flowers smiled down at us, the stud in his ear glinting.

Kamlesh sat vacant-eyed, wooden-faced and immobile throughout our visit only to break down once when one of us touched her slight frame to ask whether she was unwell or desperately unhappy. She just wiped her tears silently.

“Some of my own people have accused me of smiling even when my only son is gone. I ask them if you will believe my grief only if I weep incessantly?” said Yash Pal as if to appeal to his wife.

Senior leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party and the local BJP MLA came with promises and went away never to be heard of or seen again. Why has the issue died as suddenly as Ankit himself?

Because Yashpal refused to allow the murder to be politicised?

Because he is too simple-minded?

Because he is too secular? Nobody knows.

Some citizens are running a crowdfunding campaign to support Ankit’s parents. A trust committed to communal harmony has pledged a monthly stipend. This is their only hope.

On our way out, Yashpal requested Ankit’s childhood buddies, three strapping, silent young men to escort us to the memorial constructed for their friend. Sukhmeet, Devanshu, and eerily a strange look alike, Ankit, walked us to the corner of the street where their friend was slaughtered. No one knows why the tulsi plant in a modestly tiled planter wilts in the March heat. A few A4 photocopies, flapping in the diffident breeze, demand "Justice for Ankit". 

A memorial to the tragic end of the love between Ankit and Shehzadi. Its a memorial to a extraordinary son and an exceptional family.

As for me, a journey that began with the merciless killing of Safdar Hashmi by a pack of political hoodlums brings me today, nearly 30 years on, to the cold-blooded murder of Ankit Saxena by a bunch of executioners who could tear apart the social fabric of my city.

A grim reminder of the ugly reality of India. Cry, the beloved country.

Also read: Why Ankit Saxena lay bleeding on the road, knifed by his girlfriend’s parents

Writer

Tani S Bhargava Tani S Bhargava

The author is managing trustee of IC Trust

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