It was a Sunday evening, and yet the air outside Ankit Saxena’s house was buzzing with energy.
It has been over four months since Ankit was brutally murdered by his girlfriend’s family, but that has not dimmed his family’s spirit. If anything, Ankit’s kin have risen from the tragedy to promote a message of communal harmony and peace, challenging the ideology that led to his death — it was reported at the time that Ankit was murdered because his Muslim girlfriend’s family opposed their relationship because of religion.
As part of their efforts, the Saxena family organised an Iftar on 3 June 2018 in Ankit’s memory.
The entire neighborhood descended on the Saxena doorstep to help out, with glasses of Rooh Afza and chilled water being passed around; and coolers fixed inside the houses brought outside to beat the hot Delhi air that clung heavy.
A neighbour approached me with a glass of water as I entered the lane, where carpets were laid out in preparation. Sitting down next to me, she said:
We are Muslims, and Ankit was like our son. We never differentiated between him and our own children.Saxena family’s neighbour
Amidst the lively preparations, Ankit’s loss could be felt clearly. Ashish Duggal, Ankit’s cousin, who was busy supervising the arrangements, said, “The entire idea to organise an iftar came from our friend Azhar. But if Ankit were here, it would have been completely different. Our aim is to spread the message of peace and communal harmony.”
This is hardly the first time that Ankit’s friends have organised an Iftar.
Ankit’s friend and namesake – Ankit – says:
We would always celebrate Eid at Azhar’s place. But this time around, we had a reason to come together and organise it on a larger scale.Ankit’s friend
Come One, Come All
And come together they did. Apart from Ankit’s family and friends, several other well-wishers and good Samaritans too attended the event.
Masoom Nabi was one such person. Nabi had heard of the event via an earlier article published on The Quint, and had arrived to offer his support.
I read about the iftar on The Quint, and accessed Ashish’s number through a poster. This is a really nice initiative by Ankit’s family.
The Iftar was organised under a trust set up by Ankit’s father — The Ankit Saxena Trust. The trust aims to promote communal peace, and the Iftar helped kick-off its work.
“The trust aims to remove traces of communal violence and disruption. And like today’s Iftar, we will continue holding community celebrations for all festivals — be Diwali, Christmas or any other,” says Ashish.
Like Nabi, there were several others who extended their support to the family. Tani Bhargahav from the IC Foundation first met Ankit’s father, Yashpal Saxena, when he was grieving the loss of his son. “I read about the Ankit’s murder in a newspaper and have been associated ever since. What the family is doing is exceptional and quite marvellous” she says.
Malathi, another social worker, too learnt of the event through a news article.
My niece sent me an article about today’s event, and I thought I should come forward to extend my support.Malathi, social worker
By 6:45 pm, the lane outside Ankit’s house was bursting to its seams, as media persons and attendees gathered. Bowls of fruit and packets of biryani were passed around, as those observing a fast prepared for their meal.
At 7:17 pm, fasts broken with a prayer to Allah, and people from all faiths dug into their meals.
Among the attendees was Dr Kafeel Khan, the doctor accused of the Gorakhpur deaths. Speaking to The Quint, he said:
Despite everything that Yashpal ji has gone through, he has sent a very powerful message by organising this Iftar. I have only come to show my support.
As for Yashpal Saxena himself, it was a constant struggle between news channels. But on one thing he remained firm:
All I ask for is peace among communities. Let’s move beyond violence and hatred, and instead strive for peace.
To sum up Sunday evening in Dr Kafeel Khan’s words, “Like they say, I’m neither a Muslim, not a Hindu. I was born human, and human I shall remain.”