DADRI, Uttar Pradesh -- Sanjay Rana broke down twice while talking about his son, Vishal, one of the main accused in the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq, a 52-year-old ironsmith, who beaten to death by a mob alleging that he had slaughtered a calf in Bisada village on September 28.
Rana, a Bharatiya Janata Party worker, exhorted the innocence of all the ten young men, who have been arrested in connection with the case. "They have arrested the wrong boys. It is all political," he said.
During his conversation with HuffPost India on Saturday, Rana spoke about a larger conspiracy to malign him because he is a BJP worker, while expressing support for Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma's remarks about the Dadri lynching being an "unfortunate incident," widely regarded as deeply insensitive.
"I am glad that he did not go back on those words," he said.
Rana also expressed support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's measured response to the tragedy. "What else could he have said. He is the prime minister and has taken into account the feelings of many groups," he said. "We are all 'really sad' about what happened."
In Bisada village, Hindus and Muslims are divided on whether Modi has said enough on the Dadri lynching.
While several Rajputs (even those who condemn the killing), say that the prime minister spoke wisely since he had to accommodate the sentiments of different groups, Muslims feel that Modi's words lacked the healing touch which the nation needs in the midst of growing communal strife in several parts of the country.
"The PM is not behind these attacks. But in every household, there is one head who is responsible for the wellbeing of their family. If things are going wrong then he is responsible," said a 37-year-old Muslim carpenter, who requested that he not be named, for the fear of any backlash.
In the village of about 40 Muslims families and over 2,000 Hindu families, where everyone knows each other, it is easy to identify people by their name and profession.
While none of the Muslims families (with the exception of Akhlaq's kin) have permanently moved out of the village, the real test, they say, will come after the security forces leave the village.
"I don't know what the PM should have said. He is very busy man, who has to run the nation, and there are many things he has to think about. Who am I to say what he should have said," the carpenter said. "But I would just say that brotherhood between all religions is very important. If that brotherhood breaks then we will all be losers."
"Brotherhood is the key," he said.
In the days after the Dadri lynching, politicians, media, and pundits have questioned, prodded and chastised Modi for keeping quiet for almost two weeks after the tragedy.
When he spoke of communal harmony during an election rally in Bihar, Modi did not mention Dadri lynching. Instead, the prime minister fell back on his oft-repeated sentiment of fighting poverty, not Muslims, while urging people not to pay heed to hate speech.
In his first reference to the Dadri lynching, published by Anandabazar Patrika on Wednesday, Modi's words failed to reflect the enormity of the crime.
Clubbing Akhlaq's death with cancellation of Ghulam Ali's concert due to Shiv Sena threats, Modi said that he was "really sad" about both.
'If I Was PM'
Modi should have gone beyond expressing the obvious, said Reshma, an 18-year-old Muslim girl, whose marriage in the aftermath of the Dadri lynching was widely reported by the media.
In an effort to promote communal harmony, Hindus in the village came forward to organise the wedding, and ensured that none of the prevailing tensions marred the special day.
Having Rajputs, Muslims and Hindus belonging to "backward castes" at her wedding was not a novelty for Reshma, whose friends in school came from all different backgrounds. "After the whole incident, some of them called me and asked if I was okay and what did I plan to do about the wedding," she said.
Wondering out loud about whether she would get into trouble for speaking on the subject, Rashmi, a class 12 student, said that she would have liked to hear more from the prime minister.
"If I was the PM, I would have said that we all have the same blood. God may decide what religions we are born into, but our blood is the same. So if we fight each other then we are just fighting ourselves," she said.
A few minutes' walk from Reshma's house lives a Muslim washerman, who requested his name not appear because he cannot risk being identified in the present atmosphere.
The middle-aged man declined to speak on a political issue, but when encouraged by his wife, he made one comment about Modi's remarks.
"I would have liked to hear him promise that those who have done this crime, the real culprits, will be punished," he said. "More than any words, I think that would really show that he wants peace."
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