An Iftar to heal religious divide in India

أخر تحديث : jeudi 7 juin 2018 - 7:36
An Iftar to heal religious divide in India

Ankit Saxena was killed by his Muslim girlfriend’s family, but his father organises Iftar to bridge religious divide

New Delhi – Yashpal Saxena, a frail Hindu man, sat in the middle of a gathering of strangers on a hot evening in the Indian capital of New Delhi

He was hosting an Iftar (the meal with which Muslims open their fast during Ramadan), months after his son was violently murdered near their home in the neighbourhood of Raghuvir Nagar in west Delhi

Ankit, a Hindu, was murdered by a Muslim couple for dating their daughter, a brutal end to a three-year-long relationship

On Sunday, a few minutes before sundown, more than a hundred people gathered in the narrow lane outside Saxena’s home

I tremble, I cry when I remember my son, he was a piece of my heart, my hero, Yashpal said in a choked voice

His murderers were Muslims but that doesn’t mean I will have a grudge against the community, he added

Scores of devout Muslims came after prayer to join Yashpal and other activists as the sky started to darken. The family had spread mats in the alleyway so people could sit and dine

The idea of a non-Muslim family hosting an iftar for Muslims is exactly what is needed to heal a people divided by hate and bigotry, » said Anas Tanwir, a supreme court lawyer and organiser of #Iftar4All

Ankit Saxena, 23, had his throat slit open by the family of his Muslim girlfriend on a busy street in New Delhi in February this year

Honour killings

Marriage outside one’s faith or caste is still frowned upon in many parts of India, at times resulting in violence

Honour killings – when a person is killed by a family member who believes the victim has brought shame on the family, clan or community – are common in India

According to government data, 288 cases of honour killings were reported between 2014 and 2016 in the country.

For Ankit’s father, Yashpal, breaking bread with these men and women meant a rejection of hate

This man is celebrating a festival of the same faith as that of his son’s killers. This resonates with the India that Mahatma Gandhi wanted to build. In an atmosphere of hate, it’s critical that we stand with people like Yashpal, activist Mohammed Amir Khan told Al Jazeera at the event

Yashpal’s reaction immediately after his son was killed and in the months that followed have counteracted the possible politics of division that could have played out around the incident

Please do not communalise my son’s death, Yashpal had told local media after his son was the target of the violent hate crime

He also stayed away from a candle-light march in memory of his son organised by local leaders of the right-wing ruling Bharatiya Janata Party BJP

In doing so, he rejected the increasingly poisonous rhetoric directed against Muslims in everyday life in India

Many right-wing leaders and supporters including a legislator in New Delhi aligned to the ruling party had attempted to stir religious discord, following Ankit’s death. They posted provocative messages on Twitter

Yashpal now says he wants his son’s name to be synonymous with communal harmony

The family is also planning to set up an organisation to help people who want to marry partners who are not from the same community

This Iftar is a message

Communal tensions are a constant worry in the world’s biggest democracy. Indians are being whipped up by the demonisation of the other, egged on by the rhetoric of politicians and a feverish media

Activists claim anti-Muslim sentiment has increased in some places since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist BJP came to power in 2014

Yashpal, 59, now plans to help couples who do not belong to the same community. He is being aided in his efforts by young Hindu and Muslim men, and members of his family like Ashish Duggal, Ankit’s cousin

By Zeenat Saberin/ + Free Opinions
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