Rajat Sharma

Leaders must keep religion away from Shraddha murder issue

akbThe case of the barbaric murder of Shraddha by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawala was raised during the ongoing Gujarat election campaign on Thursday, with All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi saying it should not be given a “religious angle”. Owaisi said, “it is not an issue of love jihad. It is about exploitation and abuse against a woman. It should be viewed in this manner and condemned.”

Owaisi’s reaction came in response to BJP leader and Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma telling a party rally in Delhi that “India does not need a person like Aaftab, and there must be a Uniform Civil Code and a law against love jihad”. Owaisi appeared to be angry when he said, “BJP’s politics on this (Aaftab case) is completely wrong. Such incidents of barbaric murder are saddening, they should not be politicized and given a Hindu-Muslim angle.”

Owaisi’s argument was that BJP is raising the Aaftab issue only because he is a Muslim. He raised the Bilkis Bano issue at his Godhra rally and said, “Today the Muslims of Gujarat are asking why the rape and murder convicts in Bilkis Bano case were released from jail”. Owaisi is trying to tell Muslim voters in Gujarat that if the killer of Shraddha had been a Hindu, BJP would not have highlighted this case. Owaisi read out a list of Hindus who killed women in the recent past. “This type of crime is not new, but just because Aaftab is a Muslim, the case is being highlighted. If the killer had been a Hindu, no question would have been raised”, Owaisi told his supporters.

The problem with Asaduddin Owaisi is that he reveals less, and misleads more. Owaisi is not revealing why the court released the convicts in Bilkis Bano case after completion of their jail term. Owaisi may be right that the Aaftab-Shraddha case is not a matter of ‘love jehad’. Shraddha knew from the beginning of her relationship that Aaftab was a Muslim. Had Aaftab concealed his religion, it could have been termed a ‘love jehad’.

Owaisi’s remarks are misleading not because the killer is a Muslim, but the fact is, the matter was highlighted because Aaftab had strangulated and chopped Shraddha’s body into 35 pieces. The murder was heart rending because Shraddha had left her home and parents to stay with Aaftab, but her lover chopped her body into pieces, stored them inside a refrigerator and threw them in the forest every night. This barbaric act made many people weep. People were shocked and sad to find Shraddha choosing her life partner after quarrelling with her parents, but in the end, Aaftab put her severed head inside the refrigerator. Not only this, Aaftab calmly ordered food from outside and kept them in the fridge along with the severed body parts.

Owaisi must understand, such a cruel and barbaric act would have been highlighted in the media even if the stone-hearted killer had been a Hindu. Owaisi probably forgot that the barbaric gangrape and murder of Nirbhaya in Delhi ten years ago, became media headlines across India. Her killers were not Muslims. Owaisi must realize that such cruel acts of crime must never be made a Hindu-Muslim issue.

I agree, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma should not have labelled the Aaftab-Shraddha affair a ‘love jehad’ one. Similarly, Owaisi should not have listed out the name of Hindus who killed women in the recent past. Owaisi gets his chance to raise such issues when some fringe elements indulge in illegal acts.

In Bhagwan Mahavir University campus in Surat on Thursday, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal supporters bashed up three Muslim youths. The attackers were not university students. They came from outside and were wearing masks. They warned the Muslim youths to stay away from Hindu girls. When the video went viral, facts emerged that more than 20 such people had entered the campus. They rounded up three Muslim youths and started beating them up.

The university administration did not react in the beginning. The three Muslim youths, who were beaten up, did not file any police complaint. Dinesh Navadiya, local VHP treasurer, described this as a ‘self-defence act’. He said, “We got information that a big conspiracy was going on to entrap Hindu girls of Bhagwan Mahavir college of Surat in ‘love jehad’. VHP and Bajrang Dal investigated the complaint and we found truth in it. Our workers did this to protect Hindu girls.” The university registrar has now promised to get the matter investigated.

The act of beating up youths in the name of religion is condemnable. Even for a minute, if we agree that Muslim youths were trying to entrap Hindu girls, Bajrang Dal workers had no business taking law into their own hands. They could have complained to police, but the brazen manner in which they declared that they have bashed up Muslim youths, is condemnable. Self-proclaimed protectors of religion must know that the university is named after Bhagwan Mahavir, the apostle of peace and non-violence. Police must take action against the guilty.

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