No One Wants to Address the Elephant in the Room in the Ankit Saxena murder case

A horrific event happened in Delhi last week and the sanity of the people who were directly affected by the tragedy prevented more horrific events from happening as an aftermath of the index event. The family of the murdered young man deserve praise for maintaining levelheadedness in the face of a horrific personal tragedy. And that is what The Guardian wrote about, in addition to a host of media outlets in India.

While it is indeed commendable that the family of the slain man adopted and stuck to a very sensible position about the circumstances of the event, no one seems to be interested in identifying and addressing the ‘root cause’ of the horrific crime. What exactly is the reason why it happened?

The bereaved family remained level-headed despite the loss. Good thing. But why did they lose their only child?

Because he was murdered by someone.

Who murdered him?

People, members from a family, in his own neighbourhood murdered him.

Why was he murdered?

Because he was in love with a girl from that family and apparently that feeling was reciprocated as well.

But why was he killed for it?

Because himself and the girl belonged to different faiths.

But why was he killed for that? Many interfaith marriages do happen these days in India.

The girl’s family didn’t want her to marry outside her faith.

But what is wrong with marrying outside your faith?

Well, there may not be anything wrong with marrying outside your faith, but it appears that the religion to which the girl’s family belonged prohibits women from that religion marrying men from other faith. Or that is apparently what the girl’s family believed and practised.

So, what is the root cause for the horrific murder?

It is obvious that it is the absolutist position taken by the family of the girl, that a girl from the family cannot be allowed to marry outside their faith, that it somehow violates the tenets of their faith, that inspired the murder (I am still perplexed why they chose to kill the guy instead of the girl, by the way).

If the faith didn’t prescribe such absolutist (?absurd) rules and if the family had not subscribed to such absolutist (?absurd) prescriptions by religious scriptures/authorities, the couple — and possibly the families too — might have lived happily together.

The family of the girl need not have got agitated about the issue, the crime wouldn’t have been ‘necessary’, the boy need not have lost his life, the girl’s family need not have gone to jail and, most importantly, there would have been no need for the boy’s parents be put through such suffering and during such suffering made to make such morally and intellectually demanding decision in the time of bereavement.

It is the good fortune of the local community that the event involved the son of such noble-minded parents. Not everyone is expected to take noble, level-headed decisions in such devastating personal circumstances. It is better that such instances are prevented in the first place, rather than relying upon the moral compass of the affected families to prevent communal flare ups.

So, what is the lesson learned?

What can we do prevent such instances in future?

To my mind, it is the unreasonable and illogical absolutist position adopted by the family that eventually lead to the murder. It is my guess, from the way usually things are, that the family’s position on this issue was inspired by and intricately intertwined with their faith. Mind you, this is not an issue only with the faith of the girl’s family, and it is not my intention to blame one particular faith in this matter. There is no dearth of religions which propagate such absolutist and ‘unquestionable’ rules and each one of them have led to such horrible incidents in the lives of innocent people all through the history of such religions. The issue is with religion, which promote blind faith and ask people to follow ‘divine scriptures’ without question and resort to absolutist positions about their God(s) and their teachings.

There are numerous instances of such horrific events resulting from individuals, families and communities adopting absolutist positions in matters which are essentially personal in nature. There are many instances of ‘honour killing’ in the Indian subcontinent (I intentionally said Indian continent because I am sure it is nothing specific to India as a country and is more of a regional cultural phenomenon) related to such instances, almost all of which can be traced back to identities related to religion, caste or family.

When faith is recognized as only ‘faith’ and not ‘truth’, when other artificial basis for division like caste and communities are recognized to be manmade and with no ‘divine’ or scientific or rational purpose, such absolutist positions will disappear. This is what all rational minds should work towards.

Absolutist positions and religions which propagate such positions, be it arising from or related to faith, caste, community or family identity, should not have any space in a rational, civilized, secular democratic society. And individuals, groups, communities, faiths/religious teachings or for that matter any thought process which promotes absolutist positions, when it is based on unscientific, irrational and immoral principles incompatible with the ethos of a rational society, should be rejected.

But are we really working towards this?

I doubt so. Instead of focusing on the root cause of events, we are focusing on the nobility of the man’s family (which would not have been necessary, if absolutist positions on personal matters were not adopted by the girl’s family in the first place) and discussing the attempts to link the surrounding events with mischiefs (or attempted mischief) by wily politicians. We are not willing to address the underlying problem which created circumstances allowing such ‘fishing in muddy waters’ — which is their (politicians’) nature and their profession, the real question is who ‘muddied the waters’ allowing such characters to have a field day ‘catching fish’!

All the media reports including the one from The Guardian are either discussing the response of the slain man’s family or trying to take pot-shots at the ruling party, the prime minster etc. who are not really the favourites of the media and the intellectuals any way. Doing all these is alright, but these are all distractions from the real issue, which is the unwanted and avoidable consequences of allowing religion and its fanatical (and absurd) teachings to dominate the lives of people.

Appreciating the nobility of the slain man’s family is good, but we cannot stop there. There are bigger and more pressing matters, the root cause, which are begging our attention and action. Addressing the root cause will require you to confront the powerful organized religions and other similar ‘mafia organisations’ and it is not going to be an easy task. Religions and their teachings, caste and similar identity-based groups who propagate absolutist positions on anything and everything needs to be confronted and be shown their right place — outside the limits of civilized society.

Are you game for the challenge?


Academic Nephrologist with interest in History & Indian Philosophy

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