To Fall In Love Is A Crime: Ankit Saxena’s Story

Posted by Rimli Bhattacharya in Society
February 20, 2018

In the midst of a plethora of brutal killings in the name of love, I often think: is loving someone a crime? Does it mean we should hate each other? Does it also mean that we should only think of caste, creed, religion and more ‘quality checks’ before we say that we love someone?

I have a particular reason for posing these questions – and that reason is the brutal murder of Ankit Saxena.

Ankit, a Hindu, was only 23 when he was killed. He was a dilettante photographer based out of Khyala in West Delhi and the sole earning member in his family. He also was a part-time salesman through which he supplemented his income in addition photography. As it turns out, his only ‘crime’ was that he loved a 20-year-old woman, Shehzadi, with whom he had a relationship of three years.

The sequence of events was probably like this.

Shehzadi allegedly had a fight with her family, when her younger brother discovered some chummy texts in her mobile phone, which had been exchanged with Ankit. Like in many such cases, they didn’t even think twice before judging her severely. Shehzadi’s father wanted to beat her, but was stopped by her mother.

The next day, Shehzadi locked her parents inside the house and left to meet Ankit. However, her family managed to break open the lock – and Shehzadi’s father, uncle and brother rushed to Ankit’s house. They assaulted Ankit outside his house – and it resulted in a physical scuffle. Shehzadi’s father slit Ankit’s throat with a knife, and fled the scene.

How culpable are we, as a society, for Amit Saxena’s murder? (Image source: Amit Saxena/Facebook)

The Indian Express reported that Ankit had tried to settle the dispute. Apparently, he had said that they should go to the local police station to sort out the issue. “However, the woman’s father whipped out a knife and slit his throat,” an eyewitness claimed. Ankit’s mother Kamlesh was also allegedly beaten up for trying to save her son. “I heard a commotion… I went outside and found that they (the woman’s family) had surrounded my son and were assaulting him. I called my husband and we rushed to his aid,” she said.

The report also stated that Kamlesh (who had undergone surgery a few months ago) had alleged that the girl’s family rained punches on her chest, besides verbally abusing her. She also claimed that her husband, Yashpal, had also been assaulted. “My husband is a heart patient and was in shock. All we could do was plead with them. They kept asking me where their daughter was,” Kamlesh said.

Shehzadi’s mother, father and uncle were sent to judicial custody, while her brother was sent to a juvenile home. The commandos and a dozen policemen have been deported to protect their houses and surviving relatives. The incident took place on the night of February 1, 2018.

So, there you have it – another hate crime in the name of love. Are we running out of issues?  Is this really the society in which we live? Why can adults not love each other? I am also very angry with the fact that Shehzadi’s brother was actually able to have access to the personal messages on her phone.

Why are hate and honour killings on the rise under the current government regime? Our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had assured us of acche din. Is this what he really meant? Predictably enough, right-wing Hindutva groups were quick enough to point their fingers at Muslims and say that Hindu khatre mein hai (Hindus are in danger) – possibly as an effort to trigger unrest.

But, Ankit’s family firmly held their ground refusing to make it a communal issue. This was a brave act that made them heroes, at least in my eyes. Moreover, Karwan-e-Mohabbat (Caravan of Love) visited the family of the deceased. Their move was highly appreciated as they are a team of journalists, writers, artists and civil society members, who have been travelling to various parts of India visiting the families of those who have been killed in hate crimes.

But, I wonder what is the use of all this in addressing the core issue? Manoj Tiwari, the BJP chief in New Delhi, had requested Arvind Kejriwal to break his silence and pay ₹1 crore to Saxena’s family as compensation. I want to ask a question to Mr Tiwari – now that Ankit is gone, what is the use of this money? Do you mean to say that we do these honor killings and then survive on the ‘earnings’ of the deceased which are thrown to the families in name of compensation?

I do not wish to write anymore on this execration of an issue or on people spreading violence under the current regime. However, I would like to conclude the essay by saying these words. I believe that everything happens for a reason – be it the floods, fire, tsunamis, homicide or Narendra Modi’s regime. It would be wrong for me to cite this, which some may even construe as an excuse for what’s happened, but still, I could not stop myself from saying these words.

That said, how will we understand the good if we do not see the evil? I will say that India, my home for four decades, is now getting divided in the name of religion, hatred and love jihad like never before – to the extent that I often fail to recognise or call myself an Indian. Though Ankit’s father had expressed that the incident shouldn’t be given any communal angle, I must say India has deteriorated and these murders in name of honour and religion are now rampant. Afrazul’s murder was one such incident of hate crime – and now, Ankit’s murder is yet another addition to the list.

Let us not forget that we are secular – or at least, so we claim to be. If we do not unite, the death toll will only increase. It’s also necessary that the masses change their mindset on interfaith marriage and relationships. Yes, to certain extent, the current political scenario is responsible for this division – but still, I think we need to be the change to see the change we desire.

I too was once married to a Christian man. As a Hindu, I never felt the need for any division in the name of religion, but my in-laws and husband (now ex) did not feel the same. In fact, they were more interested in religion and forced me to embrace Christianity brutally. They told me that Satanic forces were after me and that I needed to purify myself in the name of religion. So, I simply divorced.

Now, I am a single woman. If I choose to marry a man from a different religion tomorrow, shall I too get killed with the government handing money over to my family as compensation? Or are we going to stop these hate games, murders and division in the name of religion? I leave the question pen for the society and the country. While answering my question, however, I would like to request all of you not to forget that we are free to choose our partners irrespective of religion.


Featured image source: Amit Saxena/Facebook