By 7 pm, Ashish’s voice had reached a crescendo. “Please baith jaiye sab log, maharaj ji idhar mantra padh lenge, sab prasad khake jaana.” Nearly all the guests had arrived and were seated in two rows on a green carpet. Neighbours threw curious glances from balconies while children hid behind window panes. The iftar was scheduled at 7.17 pm and Ashish was worried that amid the last-minute rush, they would not be able to stick to time.
Ankit Saxena’s smiling portraits adorned the venue, a narrow lane in west Delhi’s Raghubir Nagar. After a few minutes, Yashpal Saxena, Ankit’s father, came down the stairs of their one-room house. Four months after he was stabbed to death allegedly by his girlfriend’s family, Yashpal and Ankit’s friends held an iftar in the memory of the 23-year-old photographer.
Activists including Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj, Dr Kafeel Khan from Gorakhpur hospital, members of several NGOs, Ankit’s friends and a few neighbours joined the event.
Faced with a barrage of queries from the media on the ‘objective’ behind the iftar, Yashpal said: “I am a broken man. There’s no big message that I am seeking to send out. It’s just that people, especially youngsters, are too angry these days. Perhaps Ankit’s murder was a fallout of that same anger. I want peace.”
Ankit Rao, who was one of Ankit’s closest friends, said the father of Azhar, who stays in the same building as Ankit’s family, had first floated the idea. “We were planning to hold it at a nearby park. But there was a death in the area, so we had to hold it in the lane,” he said.
A few personnel from Khyala (west) police station were also at the venue and recorded the event.
Among those at the iftar were Azhar and Mohammed Imran Hussain from Bihar. “Our brother lives in the colony. We have come on a visit to Delhi… This initiative will perhaps heal many wounds,” said Azhar.
Not many neighbours made it to the iftar, but Ankit’s friends said they had invited everyone. Kamlesh, a neighbour who saw Ankit “growing up in front of her eyes”, said people were quite welcoming about the initiative. “It’s just that many of us are not around in the evening. There’s no ill-will as such,” she said.
Zeba, Azhar’s wife, said Ankit’s parents are facing an acute financial crunch: “His mother is not well… so we keep an eye. His father is a heart patient.”
Ankit’s friends said despite assurances, including from the Delhi government, not a penny has reached the family. When asked about this, Yashpal said, “I have moved past all that… I just want to ensure that Ankit’s legacy is one of love, not hatred.”