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Why did Ankit Saxena and Shehzadi have to pay for falling in love in a free India?

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Time and again, the intolerant is hurting the tolerant, cowards are hacking the brave to death. Be it Rizwanur in Kolkata, Afrazul in Rajasthan, or now Ankit.

Humans are barbaric. They kill, publicly and secretly, in the light of day and the darkness of the night, in reality and in their imagination. I shudder to think that if murder wasn’t criminal under law, then we would see crores of them every day, at the drop of a hat. Surely animals get shocked at how humans can kill for such small issues!  Animals do not kill like humans. But according to us, bestiality means ‘bad’, and humanity means ‘good’. But shouldn’t humanity mean greed, jealousy, barbarism and selfishness instead?

Ankit Saxena, a 23-year-old photographer, was slaughtered in broad daylight on a street in Delhi. He was in love with a 20-year-old woman, Shehzadi. He was Hindu, she Muslim. But her family refused to accept their relationship because he was not of the same religion. Shehzadi’s family had threatened her not to contact Ankit. When they found out they were still talking to each other, Shehzadi’s father called on Ankit for a visit.

What happened after that? Shehzadi’s father and uncle beat Ankit in broad daylight on a road, and people watched silently. No one came forward to save him. The father and uncle then took out a knife, and just like the slaughter of a cow, proceeded to slaughter young Ankit.

Shehzadi ran away because if those butchers found her, they would slaughter her the same way. We have termed these ‘honour killings’. If there is an interfaith marriage between a Hindu and a Muslim, apparently the families lose their respect and honour, which means they would have to kill the couple to preserve their ‘honour’. They think the honour of the hater is greater than that of the lover.

In this case, a Muslim man killed a Hindu. Hindus, too, promptly kill Muslims. Remember Shambhu Lal – who axed a Muslim worker, Afrazul, to death and then burnt him in Rajasthan? The worker had not carried out ‘love jihad’, but since that label has been applied to Muslims and Afrazul was Muslim, he had to pay for it with his life.

Fundamentalists on both sides have clearly said we won’t let Hindus and Muslims get married. But if the man is Muslim, then the issue escalates to ‘love jihad’. Apparently, it has become Muslim men’s mission in life to fake love and convert women under the guise of marrying them.

However, most interfaith marriages are not about converting, but the idea still persists. There may be couples who do not adhere to any religion after marriage, or practice their own individual faiths, and live a happily ever after. But we don’t talk about them.

Ankit’s murder has infuriated Hindus, especially fundamentalists. The murderers are now in jail. Ankit’s father has asked that they be hanged. But he has also said something unbelievable. ” 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. 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.”

I don’t know whether he said it out of fear of Muslims or he actually meant it, but to say it with his son’s dead body in front of him is not an easy job. I am assuming he said what he said with his heart. His father doesn’t want anyone to harm Muslims because of his son’s death. But every father is not like Ankit’s father. The urge to take revenge in humankind is tremendous, as is the obsession with hate.

This hatred is not exclusive to religion, but it is prevalent among class, caste, and clans (gotras). Marriages between rich and poor, upper castes and lower castes, are also almost impossible. In Haryana and Rajasthan, if a couple of the same clan fall in love with each other and want to marry, they are either killed or banished from the village. In their belief, people of the same clan are supposedly brothers and sisters, so there is a strict ‘law’ that prevents them from marrying. But modern men and women don’t want to adhere to this, and they either pay the price with their lives, or are banished, or killed.

If two people are in love and want to get married, no one has the right to stop them. The Supreme Court of India has said this. Imagine, such an obvious thing now requires a Supreme Court intervention!

This problem will continue to persist until parents consider their grown-up sons and daughters as adults or stop brainwashing them. Most people are indoctrinated by their family’s religion, prejudices, and parochial views. The likes and dislikes of the family must become theirs as well. Which is why arranged marriages become so easy for the children to accept. However, if they develop their own tastes, it becomes a problem.

Society should always support couples who go against traditional norms to fall in love or live together. It is the responsibility of new generations to challenge old customs and beliefs. The more the marriages between different castes, classes, and religions, the more the society goes towards defeating hate. It is the duty of conscious citizens to make society hate free.

True love isn’t concerned with class, caste, clan, religion. Of course, true love is rare. People fall in love with name, fame, and wealth, beauties and degrees, rather than the person. Materials are becoming more prominent, as are religion and caste. In times like these, if someone’s unadulterated love uproots all preconceived notions, then society murders them.

Our Hindu-Muslim-upper class-lower class society killed Rizwanur in Kolkata; or, to be precise, forced him to kill himself after he married a Hindu woman, Priyanka. In Delhi, it was Ankit Saxena. A brave woman like Shehzadi is now scared. Time and again, the intolerant is hurting the tolerant, while the cowardly are hacking the brave to death. The time to fight is now.

(Translated from Bengali by Neera Majumdar)

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