On Sunday afternoon, as impassioned speeches by leaders big and small resonated in Jantar Mantar, the silence of a father and a son stood out. Jalaluddin Khan, father of 15-year-old Junaid, and Irshad, son of slain dairy farmer Pehlu Khan, sat quietly as a dharna to demand justice for victims of mob lynching took place. Junaid was stabbed to death on June 22 in a Mathura-bound train by a group of men who called him a “beef-eater”, while Pehlu was killed on April 1 in Alwar.
Jalaluddin didn’t address the gathering. He also didn’t participate in the #NotInMyName march on June 28. On stage since noon, he drove down to Delhi with his eldest son Ismail and left in a few hours. Black bands and banners with photos of Dadri lynching victim Mohammad Akhlaq; Pehlu Khan; missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmad; and Junaid, floated in the crowd, as did slogans demanding strict punishment for the accused.
A group of 40-50 people from Junaid’s village, Khandawali in Ballabhgarh also attended the protest. “This has been organised by the people of Mewat… Because of the circumstances now, we feel the need to be on the road to fight,” Sher Mohammed, head of Rajasthan’s Meo panchayat, said. Najeeb’s sister, Sadaf Musharraf, spoke about “the number of cows that die from eating plastic…”, and called for “law against mob lynching”.
A few hours and speeches later, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India party took over the mic: “If there was truth in the PM’s statement… he would have visited the homes of victims’ families… he did not visit Junaid… he could have gone to Akhlaq’s house, Pehlu’s house… As PM, instead of saying ‘these things shouldn’t happen’, he should say ‘I won’t let this happen’,” he said.