By Elton Gomes
To commemorate his son’s death, Yashpal Saxena, the father of Ankit Saxena, organised an iftar party on Sunday after he continually rejected all attempts to politicise his son’s murder after it was alleged that Ankit was murdered by his Muslim girlfriend’s family. The iftar party was organised to ensure that Ankit’s legacy is marked by love and tolerance.
Yashpal said he wishes that his son becomes a torch-bearer for inter-faith relationships. The iftar was organised in Delhi’s Raghubir Nagar locality and was attended by activists such as Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj, and several other members of the civil society.
The iftar party transcended boundaries of tolerance and forgiveness. According to Yashpal, the move was the genesis for the trust that will help couples marry outside their faith.
Here’s what happened
In February 2018, Ankit, a 23-year-old professional photographer, was stabbed to death in west Delhi’s Khyala area. His girlfriend, identified as Shehzadi, told the media that her family is responsible for Ankit’s death.
“I was going to meet him when I got to know. My family has killed him. My uncle has done this,” Shehzadi told India Today. According to the Delhi police, Shehzadi’s family opposed her relationship with Ankit as he was not a Muslim.
On February 3, NDTV reported that three people were arrested while one minor was detained regarding the case. The police reportedly arrested Shehzadi’s mother and uncle from the murder site, and her 14-year-old brother was detained. Her father and younger brother were also taken into custody later. The charge sheet noted that the murder was planned. It stated that Akbar Ali, Shehzadi’s father, slit Ankit’s throat as he did not approve of her relationship.
There were increasing attempts to paint the murder in communal colours. However, Yashpal steered clear and said that no communal angle should be applied to his son’s murder. He said in an interview with NDTV, “I don’t want any inflammatory statements. I feel very saddened by what happened, but I don’t want anyone to create a hostile environment against Muslims. I have nothing against any religion.”
More importantly, Yashpal refused to target the entire Muslim community, “Yes, those who killed my son were Muslim…but every Muslim can’t 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,” he added.
In an environment where communal tensions flare at the drop of a hat, Yashpal has shown immense levels of tolerance—holding the iftar party is a strong push towards communal harmony. “This is just an attempt to further our cause of communal harmony,” Yashpal said in an interview with the Print. “We want our son’s name to be synonymous with this cause.”
Why is this important
Any attempt to curb communal violence is considered significant. Holding an iftar party transcends all attempts to heal the Hindu-Muslim divide. Moreover, Yashpal is not pandering to the media’s potential narrative of portraying his son’s murder as a hate crime, and neither is he denying that the perpetrators were Muslim. Instead, what he does is state facts clearly.
In fact, Yashpal goes a step further by offering a reprieve of sorts to those who allegedly murdered his own son – this brings to the fore his heightened sense of tolerance. A sense of tolerance that seems to be the need of the hour in a country where inter-faith relationships spark immense outrage and tensions flare up almost immediately.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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