Bharat Jodo Yatra: A vignette from ITO, Delhi
She failed to meet Rahul Gandhi in the crowd but left with hope in her heart that she was not alone, that others will hear her voice and stand by her
Five and a half years after her 17-year-old son was stabbed to death on a Mathura-bound train, and his body pushed out somewhere in Faridabad, Saira Banu stood with a placard to greet the Bharat Jodo Yatra on Saturday as it reached Delhi.
Junaid and his two brothers were returning home after Eid-shopping in Delhi when the incident took place in June, 2017. A minor altercation had spun out of control with a group of passengers manhandling the brothers and abusing them as ‘beef eaters’ and ‘anti-nationals’. Six people were arrested including the main accused, a 30-year-old security guard working in Delhi. All of them were out on bail within months.
‘I am still waiting for justice’, she explained hopefully near ITO as she waited with others to catch the attention of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. Her petition to the Supreme Court, following the dismissal of a petition for a CBI inquiry by the Punjab & Haryana High Court, remains pending.
She lustily cheered as the first surge of Yatris reached ITO and raised the slogan “Nafrat Choddo, Bharat Jodo” with others. Some of her relatives and friends accompanying her were emotional. “Who can understand it better than her the cost extracted by hatred,” one of them said.
Police had dismissed reports that the lynching followed a rumour that the brothers were carrying beef. They were not. Some reports claimed that it was their skull caps which had made some passengers to abuse the brothers. But while fewer than 10 passengers got into a brawl and assaulted the three brothers, and one of them stabbed Junaid fatally, there was little or no attempt by other passengers to stop the mob and prevent the lynching.
Several hours later, the surge of Bharat Jodo Yatra had gone past her towards the Red Fort. But she still stood there, visibly disappointed. She had not been able to meet or talk to Rahul Gandhi. But she sounded more hopeful. She had never seen such a large and electrifying crowd in Delhi. But far from intimidating her, it had, she said, filled her with hope. She had realised that she was not alone. The cry ‘Daro Mat’ (Do not be afraid) rang in her ears. Her resolve to fight for justice had been strengthened, she added with the slightest trace of a smile.
Shahnawaz Alam, who heads the minority cell of the UP Congress, spoke to her briefly. Alam has been walking from Kanyakumari and patiently heard the mother say, “Mai Insaf ke liye lad rahin hoon” (My fight is for justice) and promised to take up the issue.
This lady is why Bharat Jodo Yatra is resonating with people, he quipped to bystanders. This is why this Yatra is so important; this is all about lending our ears and listen to the people. This is about social chemistry, not political arithmetic, he added before striding ahead to catch up with others.
“To heal our historic responsibility. Once this is done, politics will change and become less toxic,” he said while chatting with this reporter. “This Yatra is for Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student who committed suicide in Hyderabad in 2016 complaining about caste discrimination, and for Junaid…for Gauri Lankesh, who was killed and for Dabholkar and Kalaburgi for their rational and independent writing…,” his voice was drowned by slogans as he rushed ahead.