Print edition : March 03, 2017

Jan Mohammad Saifi. Photo: Kunal Shankar

Interview with Jan Mohammad Saifi, younger brother of Mohammad Akhlaq.

FORTY-EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Jan Mohammad Saifi is the younger brother of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was falsely accused of storing beef in his refrigerator and lynched by a mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in September 2015. He was at the University of Hyderabad at the first anniversary of Rohith Vemula’s suicide on January 17 to show solidarity with Rohith Vemula’s brother and mother. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline:

What is the message that you wish to convey through your presence here at Rohith Vemula’s first death anniversary?

Look, our case is different from Rohith Vemula’s. But I am against the kind of injustice meted out to all of us. Everyone knows what is happening in India today. All I am saying is that humanism should be our objective. I am against breaking down this brotherhood of communities which has lasted generations. There are some forces that want to end this sense of brotherhood. These are people who are caste conscious and practise untouchability. I am here to salute this gathering. I witnessed here, for the first time, the real power of youth. This power should continue to take shape. I just want to say that I have been fighting a lone battle for my brother against several people. Being here has been a source of strength for me.

Why did you choose this gathering in particular? Several political parties have solicited your presence for various demonstrations following your brother’s death, but you refused. Why now?

I could have participated in many similar gatherings, but that would have become political. My intention is not to have a career in politics. My intention is to focus once again on the brotherhood between the peoples of our country.

Akhlaq cannot be brought to life, but it feels good when people show solidarity. And that’s why I am here. I want to show my solidarity with people who have been a source of support for me and my family. I need our society to stand shoulder to shoulder with me. I cannot fight this battle forever, but I will fight it as long as I have the strength.

Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party keep asking India’s Muslims to go to Pakistan. How wrong they are to think that we want that! And let us say we actually leave, who do they then have to fight against in order to come to power? The BJP requires Muslims even to come to power. It requires this division between Muslims and Hindus to remain in power.

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