Junaid Khan lynching: Yes, it is in my name

This is a piece of fiction but I deserve no mercy. We are all guilty by association.

 |  5-minute read |   28-06-2017
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Gaur se dekha to khanjar mere hi haath mein tha...

Yes, indeed, this one is in my name!   

I was the one who pinned 15-year-old Junaid Khan to the ground as two others grappled with his hands and legs that were needlessly flapping in the air.

This is a manoeuvre I had learnt when I would lift my child and pin him to the bed in a mock fight, just to have a glimpse of his broad toothless grin.

The mock fight over, the room would erupt in laughter as I would let go off my darling; I never let go off Junaid though; he fluttered in my arms like a moth as I kept striking at him till my hands ached.

I was momentarily distracted though — but I swear my hand did not waver — as I was again reminded of my child: he must be home from school, lounging in the bedroom, watching TV, playing with crayons. Bleeding red is his favourite colour — the same vibrant shade I could see now as it ruined my silken shirt.

This is no time to dwell on my little sensitivities, but I cannot even hurt a fly; if I were to tread on a puppy I am likely to yelp louder; if I were to see a rat gnashing its teeth in a dark alley, I am more likely to turn and scurry away, the tail between my legs. 


I wonder from where my squeamish self draws its strength — it seems there is some ubiquitous presence that has taken me into its protective care; it held my hand when I first shed blood in 1984; the second time I was chaperoned in Gujarat, the third time I was "inspired" to do it in Jogeshwari... But I should not bore you with mundane audit details.

I sensed someone was patting me patronisingly on the back, a familiar elderly gentleman — it was his turn now to have a "stab". "Arre, woh mere saath Ludo khelta tha...," uncleji said by way of explanation as he lifted an iron rod.

The five of us did not know each other per se: we were more than strangers, but less than friends. But we were all on the same side of the social divide.

Incidentally, Junaid had persuaded us to show solidarity with Nirbhaya — in so many ways — in candle light vigils, peace walks, seminars, talks, songs, poems, charity. And today here we were, recreating our own Nirbhaya moment, in real time...

We would occasionally meet in the train; Junaid would invariably offer "uncleji" half his seat and then we would have these animated, but meandering discussions — why Muslims don't feel duty-bound to condemn what is happening in Kashmir, like the rest of us decent folks? Why do they have such an affinity for Pakistan? Why do they over-breed? 

Of course, I regret the last chat we had that fateful day was rather inconclusive: you guessed it right, it was on why Muslims always play the victim card!

But what infuriated us? No, it was not his dress — he was nattily clad in a shirt and trouser; it was not the growth on his face: he hardly had any; no, it was not the "salaam" he had exchanged on the mobile with a friend...

The denouement came — sorry, for the literary expression but I happen to be a lecturer — when he fished a green duster out of his pocket to wipe the sweat from his brow; at that instant the four of us had exchanged a look and made up our mind: Junaid had to go! 

Sometimes, as I watch my son playing with crayons and he comes flying into my arms, I am reminded of the embrace that the boy gave me as life flickered out of him. 

Then, I wonder why we did it? The answer comes to me later, ricocheting in the dead of the night like a blast from the past. 

An inner voice whispers to me that this is the least I could have done after decades of "tolerance" and giving "them" a free-run of the country. And if making common cause with goondas, criminals and the lumpen will help me reclaim my faith, so be it!

I no longer squirm when somebody points a finger at me and dubs me a bigot; rather, I take a curious pride in it. I grin from ear-to-ear, somewhat like a Cheshire Cat that has had its milk and the cream, too.

Postscript: This is a piece of fiction — yes, it is in my name — but I had nothing to do with the ghastly killing. Even if this still sounds like a confession to you, hang me from the nearest lamp post. I deserve no less — neither my accomplices, nor my handlers, nor my ideological mentors. We are all guilty by association.

Also read: Those upset about India being called Lynchistan are just as complicit



SS Dhawan SS Dhawan

The writer is the former editor of FPJ.

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