Ankit Saxena's Murder is a Time for Collective Introspection, Not Hate-Mongering

Those raging at the murder of Ankit and using this occasion to attack secular voices are either wilfully uninformed innocents or intentionally wicked.

Ankit’s killing squarely falls in the category of ‘honour’ killings. Credit: PTI

Candles were lit for Ankit but his parents and friends refused to hold one. They feared and saw in them the fire of hatred which is being stoked all around and destroying us.

His parents want justice for him and rightly so. He was murdered in broad day light cruelly. By the parents of the Muslim girl he loved. She also loved him. In fact she was waiting for him outside the metro station when he was waylaid by her parents and younger brother and killed. The parents were angry with them for transgressing the limits that the traditional Muslim and Hindu societies impose on their daughters and sons. Love is out of the question and marriage without the consent of the family is a crime.

The parents were outraged when the younger brother of the girl disclosed to them that she had been in touch with Ankit despite their disapproval. One of their relatives told the media that they had an argument with the girl after this and she left the house in a huff. They then decided to kill both the lovers – their daughter and Ankit. Ankit was caught on the road and killed by them. The girl could not be killed. Ironically, it was the killing of her lover which saved her.

The girl was brave enough to help the police trace her family members. What is remarkable is that the parents, kith and kin of the slain young man have not lost their sanity and humanity. They have  rejected all attempts to allow their grief and anger to be used as ammunition to attack Muslims. After all, the girl their son loved is herself a Muslim. How can they permit hate against a part of her identity, her being – to which their son had been attracted.

Manoj Tiwari, the Delhi BJP chief has demanded compensation of Rs 1 crore, and termed this an organised and premeditated murder committed with professional precision. He also counselled people against giving the murder a religious colour. We should be thankful to him for having done so. This is a welcome break from what his party members have been doing in all such cases. Where they openly say that “our girls” are being taken away by “them”. That it is “our” duty to take “their” girls.

The Delhi BJP chief is right: love is between two individuals and cannot be induced as part of a conspiracy. But he should not stop here. The demand of Rs 1 crore is also slightly unusual as was the demand of Rs 50 lakhs for Chandan in Kasganj.  Neither he, nor the BJP in general, has shown this concern in the case of the murder of “others.” If pain and rage is reserved only for “our own” , as his counterpart in Kasganj publicly declared, then there is something wrong with it.

Also read: Delhi ‘Honour’ Killing: BJP Leader Demands Stern Action Against Persons Who Murdered Ankit Saxena

The BJP leader’s use of adjectives like “organised” and “professional” is also problematic. None outside the family was involved and the murderers did not appear to have any experience in using the weapon with which they killed Ankit. These adjectives only deepen the prejudice against Muslims already entrenched in society – that they hoard weapons in their homes and are naturally  violent.

Tiwari should also clearly tell the affiliates and wide network of his parivar that attempts to use this ghastly incident to generate hatred against Muslims are unacceptable.

Some TV anchors are angrily demanding the ‘Award Wapasi gang’ open their mouth. Where are those who were upset with the killing of Akhlaq, they ask.

First, we must say that these two killings fall in entirely two different categories. The murder of Akhlaq was a collective act; he did not have personal enmity with anybody from the crowd which killed him. The attack on him and his family was because of his Muslim identity, because he was, as they claimed, a beef-eater. In the case of Ankit, the anger of the family is not backed by any organisation of Muslims, nor have we seen the participation of any Muslim collective in it. Ankit’s Muslim neighbours have joined the family in their hour of grief. In Dadri, on the contrary, even two years after the incident we seen an open justification of the murder and its celebration, backed by the ruling party.

Ankit’s killing falls in the category of despicable crimes known as ‘honour’ killings. Ravish has rightly drawn our attention to the case of Kaushalya, an upper caste young woman in Tamil Nadu. Her parents hired a gang to attack her and Shankar, her Dalit husband in broad day light. He lost his life. Kaushalya , like the Muslim girl in this case, has demanded her parents be punished for having organised the murder of her husband.

Those raging at the murder of Ankit and using this occasion to attack secular voices are either wilfully uninformed innocents or intentionally wicked. They do not know that members of this infamous community shelter couples who have to flee their families, arrange for legal help for them to get their marriage solemnised and provide support to them for they have no other communitarian company to share their joy.

There are people and organisations across India working silently to help love find its place in this society. They have handled hundreds of cases of couples comprising a Hindu man and Muslim woman or a Muslim man and Hindu woman. Fleeing what they feel is certain death from their own families, such couples desperately want the tag of matrimony to make them at least legally safe. To be able to approach the courts when their families hunt them down. But the Hadiya incident tells us so vividly that even the highest court is not free from societal influences and takes time to fight its own demons. Otherwise Hadiya, even after having been married would not have been thrown back to her parents. The courts treated them as the owners of Hadiya, against her free will. Thankfully, the Supreme Court  is now correcting itself.

People like us cannot forget the hate and violence of the families of friends who committed the crime of finding love outside their religions, or castes. It is an old and painful story. How many lives fell prey to it, we do not know. I met a young man from Gaya last month. He told me about a man from his village, a Muslim, who had married a Hindu woman decades ago. Both of them fled their village. He returned nearly three decades later, thinking the memory of their crime must have dimmed. But a day later, he was killed. This is the hatred, entrenched in society, that we are up against.

Also read: Four Arrested in Delhi ‘Honour’ Killing Case

Recently, a student approached me to disclose that she was in love with a man who was Muslim and wanted to marry him. But she was mortally afraid of her family. They might kill him, she feared. It took a collective effort to get them married. They were made to leave Delhi, move to another city. She managed to get a job in school there. But when the religious identity of her husband was discovered, she was thrown out by the school.

There are numerous stories of the fortunate Ankits and Javeds and Nutans and Shehzadis who have managed to survive this hatred of “alien’ blood . I still remember the anger of the mother of a friend who had married a Muslim boy. “I cannot imagine a Muslim touching my daughter,” she kept telling us.

It is this hatred of pollution which made the parents of the Muslim girl who loved Ankit mad and turned them into murderers. We need to fight this hatred. And we need to fight the desire of parents to control the lives of their children, especially girls.

To save more Ankits, we need to stand up for Rahat. Rahat was arrested by the UP police in the wake of the violence in Kasganj. Surabhi, his  Hindu wife who was with him on their way to Aligarh, says that he is being targeted simply because he married her, a Hindu. She claims the police taunted her, saying why did she have to go out of her community to marry a Muslim.

This is the organised bias we have to fight. To stand by and with our daughters and sons. To fight a mind set which believes that marriages arranged by parents are the best. For this, we need to take a vow like Gandhi that we would participate only in those marriages which are inter-caste and inter-religious. This is also what Ambedkar proposed. Some may see this as an extreme reaction. But then the murder of Ankit or Shankar for going outside the fold of their parental religion or caste is surely more extreme. To fight this extremism, we have to do all we can.

Apoorvanand is a professor of Hindi at Delhi University.