It was the 24th of February 2020 and the atmosphere was tense in Delhi with anti-CAA protests turning into anti-Hindu riots and the news of terrible disturbances being broadcast in the media. By night gloom descended on the house of a Dalit in the area. This was the house of Vinod Kashyap a devout Shiv Bhakt, a man who was ready to help everyone.
His father Sri Chadda was in the army and their family had earned their respect in the neighbourhood. Vinod Kashyap was a man of strong will and was determined to excel in life. He started his life doing odd jobs he knew that his hard work only will decide his destiny and luck. When you work honestly for something, you gain expertise; you gain knowledge and become smart. This happened with Vinod Kashyap. His expertise, knowledge and skills helped him to climb the ladder of success. He first started to take odd electrical jobs, he was soon established and then over the years he built his own house got his son married. He lived a life he loved.
Every year he would take a month off, travelling with his Kanwar. He was very popular in the community. Of strong built and imposing personality which came from years of experience, he was a person who was remembered by the community in any hour of need. He was a much-demanded DJ the neighbours recall his favourite songs. Bhole Baba would always be humming Bum Bum Bhole in praise of Lord Shiva. His son Nitin Kumar whose nickname is Monu lived with his father along with his wife and son Yash. Monu also worked along with his father as a DJ. It was a perfect family happy and with dreams for future until the fateful night of 24 Feb 2020.
The killing of a Dalit – Vinod Kashyap
On the night of 24 February 2020 the family of Vinod Kashyap was clearly disturbed as their grandchild Yash was suffering from high fever and it was not ebbing despite all the ‘desi ilaj’ which they had done. Vinod Kashyap’s Wife Madhu and daughter in law, both had been putting a wet cloth on the child’s forehead for the past two hours but the fever just wouldn’t let up. It was past 10 and thinking that the child’s condition might deteriorate in the night, Monu, decided to step out to get medicines. He could not see the suffering of the poor child.
The rioting had already started in Brahmpuri area of North East Delhi, but then the medical shop Kalyan Medical Store was just around the corner. Monu recalls “I thought this is my place, my house, this can’t really be dangerous”. Vinod Kashyap, ever on the go, seeing his son going alone decided to go with him. It was 10.30 PM when both stepped out of the house never to return again as a duo. They both were riding the bike, Monu was driving. The streets were unusually empty and ominous but then this is MY ILAKA Monu recalls thinking. So many times the slogan Jai Bheem ..Jai Meem had reverberated in the air.
But he was so wrong. As as they were going, suddenly a stone came and hit him on the head, the bike slipped and they both fell. All of a sudden from nowhere a crowd of over 200 men with stones, iron rods and sticks came surging in. There were warlike cries of Allah Hu Akbar and the crowd started to pelt stones.
Monu recalled with a shudder how the crowd closed in and started to hit in a frenzy. Monu got hit by stones and became semi-conscious, seeing no way to escape, he pretended to be dead. Presuming Monu to be dead, the crowd turned to Vinod Kashyap..the Shiv-Bhakt. They kept chanting Allah hu Akbar and Nara-e-Taqbeer as they smashed Vinod’s face with stones, rods and sticks. They smashed his face in and murdered him because his bike had a Jai Shree Ram picture. That is all. He was killed because he was a Dalit. Because he was a Hindu.
The man who always stood tall was now lying in the pool of blood. After Monu regained consciousness seeing his father he crawled up to him bleeding profusely, he could hardly see around. He inched up to his father and he could not believe that the man so strong is lying on the street. Monu shook his father. Social media images show him bleeding from his head trying to shake and slap his dead father into consciousness. He kept shouting ‘papa utho’, while his father gasped for air, clinging to life as it slipped and the Shiv Bhakt met his SHIVA.
Monu fell unconscious and was taken to Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital, Shastri Park on a scooty by his neighbour. He was given 40 stitches on his head and has survived, but is distraught for life. He still cries tears of blood as he recalls the incident. The whole house seems to be scared and scarred. The neighbours point out the road where the lynching took place. We were told that Vinod Kashyap made the mistake of crossing the ‘border’ that exists between Hindu and Muslim areas on Wazirabad road.
Will Indians henceforth live in religious ghettos screaming their respective identities from the mastheads? Will the sound of gunfire and pelting stones wake up Indians from their daily sleep in its capital city? Will mundane tasks like buying medicines or daily bread become matters of life and death? In short, Is this the New Wagah?
(The article has been authored by Professor Vijita S Aggarwal who teaches at GGSIPU, Delhi)