Mohammad Ikhlaq, the man lynched last week by a mob in Bisada village of Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he had slaughtered a cow, had pushed his son Mohammad Sartaj to join the armed forces because he believed that was the best way to serve the country.
As he struggled to come to grips with the brutal killing of his father, the corporal in the Indian Air Force on Monday questioned the actions of the mob that lynched Ikhlaq on the basis of hearsay.
“Who is more nationalist? Me, who is serving India, or that mob that killed my father?” Sartaj told Hindustan Times.
However, Sartaj insisted his faith in the country is intact.
“I will continue to serve my country to fulfil my dead father’s dream. I have full faith in the judicial system of India. I know justice will be delivered to my family and I don’t think any country will be proud of such a mob that killed a poor man for a rumour,” he said.
“I believe the entire nation is with me because I am serving my nation, and not that mob of villagers who tried to kill the trust.”
Reminiscing about his school days, Sartaj said he wanted to become a businessman but his father’s wish was that he should join the armed forces.
“I had a dream to study further and then get into some business. But my father motivated me to join the armed forces. He was a patriot and always kept saying joining the (armed) forces is the best way to serve our country. Now I am fulfilling his dream,” said Sartaj.
Sartaj worked with his father, a blacksmith who made iron implements used in farms and homes, while studying in Bisada’s Rana Sanga Singh Inter College, located 400 metres from their house.
“I used to fan coal in the fire the whole day in Bisada before I completed my schooling. And my father used to make scythes and sickles to earn a livelihood. There were times when we did not have money to manage a day’s meal,” he recalled.
“I used to get sad and even cried at times. But my father used to say, ‘Have patience, times will change soon,’” said Sartaj, who wants his two-year-old daughter Afiya to join the civil services and serve the country.
Living up to his father’s dreams, Sartaj joined the air force in 2008 after completing his schooling.
“I was peacefully busy doing my job with the faith that my family is safe back home. The Bisada mob not only killed my father but also the trust which my father and I had in the secular credentials of our villagers,” he said.
After joining the air force, Sartaj advised his father to shift from Bisada, which is part of Gautam Buddha Nagar district. But Ikhlaq assured Sartaj that he was safe among his Hindu neighbours.
“Whenever I advised my father to shift out of Bisada, he used to say, ‘Entire Bisada is my family, so why should I shift out of here?’ My three uncles left Bisada many years ago and built houses in nearby towns like Dadri and Loni in Ghaziabad. But my father stayed back because he never had any fear of such a kind,” Sartaj said.
“Similarly my father had wanted my younger brother Danish to join civil services and do something for the country,” said Sartaj.
Danish was severely injured by the mob and is currently admitted in Noida’s Kailash Hospital.