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‘My husband employed Muslims’ — Kanhaiya Lal’s family now wants same fate for perpetrators

Kanhaiya Lal was murdered Tuesday, allegedly by 2 Muslim men who sought to punish him for a purported social media post. His family wants the killers publicly punished.

Kanhaiya Lal Teli's wife Yashoda (in red) being comforted by others | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Kanhaiya Lal Teli's wife Yashoda (in red) being comforted by others | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Udaipur: Forty-year-old Yashoda came out of her house in Udaipur’s Sector 14 Wednesday, dressed like a bride. She had on the same lehenga that she wore more than two decades ago, when she married Kanhaiya Lal Teli.

Her face radiated pain, and anger.

Just a day before, Kanhaiya Lal — a tailor by profession — was brutally murdered, allegedly by two Muslim men who sought to punish him for a purported social media post in support of former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who made controversial comments against Prophet Muhammad last month.

Identified by police as Mohammad Riyaz Attari and Ghaus Mohammed, both accused were arrested late Tuesday night. The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the case.

Purported visuals of the crime were shared on social media, where the two men were seen claiming responsibility for the crime and threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while brandishing huge knives.

Police personnel on patrol in the area where Kanhaiya Lal was murdered Tuesday | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Kanhaiya Lal was cremated Wednesday, but his wife will continue to dress as a married woman — not a widow — until the tehrvi, or the ritual observed on the 13th day of someone’s death, in line with local customs.

Yashoda broke into sobs as reporter after reporter asked her about her husband’s death. But she displayed no frustration at having to repeat her answers.

Not satisfied with either the arrests made in the case, or jobs for family members and monetary compensation from the government, she said she seeks “justice”. The perpetrators, she added, should not be hanged by the state, but beheaded or burnt.

“I’m not saying all Muslims are the same. But the Muslim community has to be blamed for what has happened. The way the Hindu community is gathering (in anger against Kanhaiya Lal’s killing) is the correct answer to give to them,” said Yashoda.

Claiming that Kanhaiya Lal didn’t deliberately share suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s remarks, and that he had apologised for having done so inadvertently, Yashoda said, “My husband had employed Muslim workers in his shop. He used to say there’s only one God, and didn’t think of Islam as a lesser religion. We had good relations with our Muslim neighbours.”

Also readThe Nupur Sharma controversy can be a lesson in being more tolerant, less reactive

‘Good husband & father’

A day after Kanhaiya Lal’s killing, strict curfew was in place across Udaipur district. Streets bore a deserted look, while anti-Muslim sentiments were voiced by some residents.

Kanhaiya Lal’s family, meanwhile, was lost in remembering the man that he was.

Yashoda called him a doting, caring husband and father. “Last karwa chauth (a celebration by married women in some parts of the country), he gifted me a saree worth Rs 4,000. Do husbands usually do this,” she asked.

The deceased’s sons, Tarun and Yash | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Family photos show the couple and their two sons — Tarun and Yash, aged 21 and 18, respectively — boating in the lakes of Udaipur. Whenever Kanhaiya Lal had the time, Yashoda said, the family would also visit places of pilgrimage near Udaipur or relatives living in Gujarat.

“He was a busy man, working from 8 am to 8 pm in the shop. He hardly ever had time, but whenever he did, he devoted it to the family,” she added.

Kanhaiya Lal’s niece Manju Ben remembered him as a “jolly man, who was always there for his extended family”.

“My mother died 3 years ago. Since then, he had been in constant touch with us. Never forgetting to call. Always asking us if we need anything,” she said.

Referring to the promises of compensation by the government, she said, “We don’t want some sarkari naukri (government job) that pays Rs 7,000 a month. We want respectable jobs for our children.”

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Who is Nupur Sharma? DUSU ex-president & LSE alum now suspended by BJP for remarks on Prophet