Dear Ma, I am home. You wanted me to buy new clothes in Delhi, but fate has landed me in heaven, where you don’t have marauding mobs. I am home. Yours, Junaid.
There was not a dry eye at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar when 22 -year-old Mohammed Asaruddin read out from what he called his brother Junaid’s “letter to his mother from heaven”, at a citizens’ protest on Wednesday.
Asaruddin’s voice quivered as he read out the lines in Hindi from a makeshift dais, set against the backdrop of a “lynch map of India”, highlighting the places where people had been lynched in the country since 2015. The letter, he said, had been penned by a journalist friend.
“Even I was called a terrorist in college. This issue is of identity and we have reached a point where we are having to conceal skull caps and other symbols that define Islam,” Asaruddin said.
Hundreds of people from Delhi joined the protest, called “Not In My Name”, held six days after the 17-year-old Junaid was killed by a mob on board a Mathura-bound train.
Simultaneous protests were held in several other cities, and are also slated to be held elsewhere in the world, the organisers said.
Among the protesters in Delhi were ordinary citizens, as well as leaders from the Congress, JD(U), AAP and the CPI.
Students and artistes voiced their resistance against what the organisers called a “climate of fear” in the country through poetry, plays, songs and posters which carried messages such as “Not In My Name, Not In Anyone’s name” and “Muslim Lives matter, All lives matter”.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala, JD(U)’s K C Tyagi and CPI’s D Raja were among the politicians present there.
Singer Rabbi Shergill was also there, and was among the performers.
“We are outraged at the systematic violence. The state has done nothing; there has been a deafening silence from the powers that be,” said filmmaker Saba Dewan, whose Facebook post last week triggered an outpouring of solidarity from across the country, and elsewhere, culminating in spontaneous countrywide demonstrations.
Congress chief spokesperson Surjewala said the “recurrence of mob lynchings” showed the “intent” of the BJP- led government at the Centre.
“The prime minister should speak out. If the government is competent enough then it should punish the perpetrators. Instead it is protecting them by staying mute,” Surjewala said.
Speaking to PTI, Shabana Azmi said, “We are demanding a law against mob lynching. I am a proud citizen of my country. This protest that has happened across the country is not specifically in support of Junaid (victim of lynching on Mathura-Delhi train a few days ago).
“It is not for Junaid alone….It’s for all forms of mob lynching, be it of police officer in Srinagar or Junaid or anyone. There is no fear of law….They (culprits) know nobody will do anything. We must recognise that citizens coming together led to justice in Nirbhaya case, so we need do this more. The government needs to take notice and create fear of and the perpetrators should be punished,” she said.
TV actor Vikrant Massey, who also took part in the march, said, “Bollywood celebrities are also part of the country and I feel every common person needs to stand up against this…..It’s not about minority and majority, let’s not get into communal angle. We need to follow the law.”
The anti-lynching movement has gained traction after Saba Dewan, a documentary filmmaker, posted on Facebook about a protest she wanted to organise at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.
Similar marches have been held in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru.
A member of the Bandra West Residents Association, who participated in today’s protest, said the campaign, started with the hashtag #NotInMyName, is an attempt to `reclaim the Constitution’ and resist the `onslaught’ on the right to life and equality.