Ankit Saxena murder shines light once again on rising hate crimes

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 08, 2018 08:46 hrs
Ankit Saxena

(Image posted in Facebook by Ankit Saxena)

“We want justice. But I am an ordinary man and I have no resources to fight the case” said Yashpal Saxena, the father of Ankit Saxena, a 23 year old who was murdered in Delhi last week. The young man’s crime; he was in a relationship with a Muslim girl. It was a hate crime.

Shortly after the murder, the police arrested relatives of the girl and were sent to judicial custody. The father of the girl and her maternal uncle has confessed to killing the 23 year old. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal upon meeting the family members of Ankit promised the help of the government in seeking justice for their son’s murder, in addition to providing medical care for his ill mother.

It’s a troubling pattern of crimes in the name of religion. Journalist, author and civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad, in a column for the Indian Express writes on the worrying silence that has followed –

For the venomous proponents of the “love jihad” myth, this is an act in reverse, with the young man, a Hindu, a victim. For both sides of the deep communal divide, the response is common: Greater segregation, less democratisation for the young, no sharing of spaces”.

In the days that followed, Ankit’s bereaved family members condemned the words of those who would use this crime and turn into a grudge match of Hindus versus Muslims. Family members have launched a Facebook page urging people to not use religion and incite violence and hate speech. His father said in part, “We have lost our son. We are not against any community”. Wise words from someone suffering an unimaginable tragedy.

That while we may speak of “secularism”, when it comes to protection of life and liberty and equality before the law and Constitution (and God knows what travesties those notions in today’s India are), this self-limiting definition does not extend to breaching the physical ghettos of space, mind and spirit”.

In a time where ‘love jihad’ is thrown around, polarization based on one’s religious beliefs is only getting broader. Fringe groups ready to pounce on an incident to defend their religion and those who belong to it. Painting with a broad brush and assigning the tern anti national to those who “stray”. Gurmehar Kaur, writer and student activist, in a column for The Print states that this murder has brought the likes of Muzaffarnagar to the nation’s capital and how this latest incident helps propel the narrative of Hindus being victims –

What is not being said is how this is a result of the poisonous social churning that the country is undergoing. His murder shows that the communal tensions that one had assumed existed mostly in corners have travelled to the capital”.

To an outsider, these religious insecurities around “Love Jihad” might appear ridiculous and a product of overly active imagination, but in many parts of India with mixed population, it is becoming an excuse for hate crimes”.

Jagmati Sanghwan, a CEC member All India Democratic Women’s Association states that though the country has a democratic set up, the basic construction of society is based on caste and religion and links this to politics on a state by state basis. She says in part, “The state machinery, which is supposed to protect the right of individuals to choose their life partner, is unwilling to protect these people due to vote-bank consideration”.

Herein lays a central tenant of not just this murder, but many other hate crimes that have taken place over the past year or two. While these hate crimes have garnered national attention, the response from the centre has been lukewarm to say the least. While it’s certainly a law and order situation, it’s not unreasonable to question the hands off approach this subject gets when dealing with crimes where religion is the central motive.

This is where Ankit’s father’s words about calling out those who fear monger not only ring true but are necessary. Calling out those who use religion to score points shouldn’t be a courageous move. Renuka Bisht, journalist, in a column for the Times of India, writes about love in the time of hatred –

“…mindset needs to change. But part of this involves understanding why it hasn’t changed despite decades of modern education and modern democracy. To the extent that this has been the failure of secular institutions like schools, legislatures, courts and the police, these institutions need serious repair”.

The other aspect to this is the response of progressives who cherish a liberal ideology; which isn’t a one way street or a tool to be used at convenience. Ratan Sharda, columnist and author of ‘Secrets of RSS: Demystifying the Sangh’ speaks to this point saying in part, “You must be truly and transparently liberal whether it is Hadiya or Ankit. This demonstrates the refusal of opinion makers to accept that love marriages are valid only if a Hindu or Christian girl converts Islam”.

More columns by Varun Sukumar

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