NEW DELHI — Remember Ankit Saxena’s father, Yashpal Saxena?
He is the soft-spoken man, who refused to pit Hindus against Muslims after his son Ankit, who was Hindu, was murdered by his Muslim girlfriend’s family on 1 February, 2018 in West Delhi. The grief-stricken father told the right-wing troublemakers, who were goading him to stoke communal violence in his neighbourhood, to back off.
“My message was simple. I want the strictest punishment for the people who killed my son, but I won’t impugn the Muslim community for the crime of four people,” Saxena said in a conversation with HuffPost India last week.
“I don’t want to say this because it does not sound nice, but I helped the Delhi government,” he said. “There could have been communal riots, but I made sure there was no fighting between Hindus and Muslims. I went out of my way to keep the peace, but the Delhi government did not keep any of its promises. They did not even have the decency to return my calls.”
In the year-and-half since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government promised him Rs. 5 lakh worth of compensation and a special public prosecutor to fight his son’s murder case, Saxena has received neither the money nor a lawyer.
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Member of Parliament (MP) from the West Delhi, Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma, had promised Saxena a food cart to help him earn a living.
The cart arrived in February, but Saxena is yet to get the keys because Verma has not found the time to formally mark the handing over of the cart in front of a phalanx of television cameras.
A year after the very public loss of his son, Saxena is a forgotten man in his grief — abandoned by governments at both the state and the centre. The 60-year-old’s life is consumed by frequent trips to city courts, and discussions with the indifferent state-appointed prosecutors who, Saxena says, are failing his son.
Today Saxena and his wife are battling ill health, and living in near penury.
“She is not being able to get up from the bed,” Saxena said, speaking of his wife. “Even after all the pain and suffering that we have endured, nothing seems to be going right.”
He added, “There is no lawyer and no compensation. There is no response.”
I went out of my way to express solidarity, but the Delhi government did not keep any of its promises.
Chasing down a special public prosecutor
Days after his son Ankit was killed in February 2018, Saxena was on his way to Haridwar to immerse his son’s remains in the Ganga, when he received a phone call from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who asked to meet him.
When they met at Kejriwal’s residence in Civil Lines, Saxena said, the chief minister reassured him that he would receive a minimum of Rs. 5 lakh as compensation and the services of a senior lawyer.
Nearly eight months later, in October 2018, the official handle of the Aam Aadmi Party tweeted a copy of a government letter sent to senior advocate Rebecca John, and Vishal Gosain to represent Saxena.
The tweet said, “Senior Counsels have been appointed to conduct the trial”, implying that John and Gosain had been appointed as special prosecutors. But the letter was a request for appointment — making clear that the matter was not yet settled.
It said, “Delhi government wants justice to be done to him.”
When HuffPost India spoke to John in April, and both lawyers earlier this month, they said that they had not received formal communication appointing them as Special Public Prosecutors.
“We never received any communication after the appointment was announced. It was lost in the rigamarole of official machinery,” Gosain said. “The matter has been lying static.”
John too said she was not consulted before the Delhi government tweeted out the letter.
Their appointments, the lawyers were led to believe, had been stalled by the Lieutenant Governor’s office. But when Saxena filed a Right To Information (RTI) request on the matter, the LG’s office said they did not have any such file.
Over the years, the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor have bitterly contested the separation of powers between each institution. In February, earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the appointment of special counsel would be dealt with by the Delhi government.
Saxena isn’t planning on filing another RTI application to find out where the appointments were stuck. “It will just be more khaana poorti and I don’t have the strength to do it. It won’t benefit anyone,” he said.
No one in the AAP-led Delhi government responded to HuffPost India’s queries as to why the formalities for appointing the special public prosecutors in this case were never completed.
Two sources within the Delhi government told HuffPost India that the file concerning the appointment of a special public prosecutor was never sent to the LG’s office as there was an issue with the legal fees.
Rahul Mehra, a founder member of AAP and standing counsel for the Delhi government in the Delhi High Court, said that he did not know why the special public prosecutors in Saxena’s case were not finally notified.
“Who is responsible for this one year long delay that this family has to suffer in a legal system that is already riddled with delays. Heads should roll for this and people should go to the gallows,” he said.
When asked if he could take on Saxena’s case, Mehra said, “Our hands are full dealing with matters in the Delhi High Court, but there is no bar on it. It is possible.”
Heads should roll for this and people should go to the gallows.
Chasing a food cart
On 12 February, almost two weeks after Ankit was murdered, Pravesh Sahib Singh Verma, the BJP MP from West Delhi and son of former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma, visited the grief-stricken Saxena home and promised him a food cart.
The media, Saxena remembers, was present.
In the months that followed, Saxena reminded local BJP leaders, who, he hoped would remind Verma.
“You know how it is. He is an MP, a big and powerful man. I’m just a common man, a nobody. I felt nervous,” Saxena said, explaining why he didn’t contact Verma directly.
When he finally met Verma in person in October, the MP claimed that none of Saxena’s reminders had reached the MP.
“He asked me, ‘Why have you not contacted me. I thought you were not interested.’” Saxena said. “Imagine my shock.”
I’m just a common man, a nobody.
Two months later, Kailash Sankla, chairman of the west zone of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Saxena said, took him for a ride-along and showed him possible locations for the food cart, but he did not find any of them to be good for business.
Saxena wanted a spot close to a metro station, or a busy residential colony like Rajouri garden to ensure he got enough business.
A spot near the metro station, Saxena was told did not fall under the MCD, which is controlled by the BJP, but the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which is controlled by the AAP-led Delhi government.
Saxena stood his ground about the location.
Then, in February, the food cart was sent to his neighbourhood in West Delhi, and parked on the road leading to his house, close to the spot his son was murdered.
Saxena initially refused to take the cart unless he was allocated a decent location, but eventually settled for a spot near the Holy Child school, Tagore Garden.
In March, Saxena says, he got a phone call informing him that Verma would him the keys to the food cart the next day, in an event attended by the media.
Saxena could scarcely believe that he was finally getting his food cart. Then a few minutes ahead of his scheduled meeting with Verma, he was informed that the MP was busy with election engagements and the handover had to be postponed.
A few days later, the Model Code of Conduct for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections kicked in. The code of conduct prevents the ruling party and its candidates from acting in a manner that gives them an unfair advantage over their rivals.
When the election results came in on May 23, Verma won by a margin of over six lakh votes.
With the election done and dusted, Saxena is hoping that Verma will fulfil his promise soon.
Last week, Saxena said, Verma’s personal secretary told him that he would pass on his message to the MP.
Since then, Saxena said, the secretary had not picked up his calls.
“How much can you beg? First, when I called, I managed to get through,” he said, recalling his year-long tussle with multiple bureaucracies. “Next few times, I ended up speaking to a secretary, who said sahab is busy. After that, they stopped answering my calls. This is humiliating.”
Virender, the personal secretary to Verma, did not say why it had taken over a year-and-a-half to hand over the food cart to Saxena, but on Friday, he told HuffPost India that it would be very likely handed over to him within a week to ten days.
Saxena said, “A common man, even in times of pain and sadness, is made to run around for such a small thing.”
A common man, even in times of pain and sadness, is made to run around for such a small thing.