‘Don’t drag him into elections’: Kanhaiya Lal’s wife as BJP targets Gehlot over Udaipur murder

After his father’s murder last year, Yash Sahu had pledged to walk barefoot and to not cut his hair until the accused were sentenced to death.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
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As part of a “pratigya” or self-sworn pledge, Yash Sahu, 21, has neither cut his hair nor worn any footwear since June 28 last year.

It was the day his father, Kanhaiya Lal Sahu, was murdered by Riyaz Attari and Ghaus Mohammad at his tailoring shop in Udaipur for allegedly reposting a comment on social media to support then BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma – who the party had suspended for her derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad. 

“The day I lit the pyre of my father, I pledged that I will neither cut my hair nor wear any footwear until the accused are hanged,” Yash told Newslaundry at his two-storey house in Udaipur’s sector 14.

And now, over a year on, while the wheels of justice turn slowly, electoral politics is only adding to the family’s sense of anguish.

‘Murder shouldn’t be politicised’

The opposition BJP is, in the words of one of Kanhaiya Lal’s friends, “opening old wounds rather than healing them” (ghade murde ukhad rahi hain).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had kicked off the party’s campaign from Chittorgarh by invoking the murder. 

“A few people come on the pretext of getting their clothes stitched. With no fear of [law and order], they slit the throat of the tailor and proudly made the video viral. Amid this, the Congress is concerned about its vote bank. What image of Rajasthan has the Congress presented before the world? It’s not possible to celebrate any [Hindu] festival in Rajasthan,” he said. 

The BJP has been consistently targeting the Congress government in the state over an alleged worsening of the law and order situation. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, meanwhile, had remarked an incident like Udaipur’s would never have happened in his state. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot responded to the BJP’s attack by saying that the accused had BJP links.

And amid all this, Yash is miffed with the political showdown.

“We believe that the murder should not be politicised. If the case is politicised, justice may be delayed. I don’t know for how long this case will go on if the case is connected to politics. We have just one demand – to get justice at the earliest,” he said.

“If that [Modi’s speech] had helped me get justice, it would have been right. Instead of giving political colour to the case, if political leaders pressure investigating agencies, the accused may get convicted at the earliest,” Yash said.

His mother Jashodha was equally pained. “Please don’t drag him [into electoral politics]. We want the accused to be hanged as soon as possible.”

When asked about the progress of the investigation, Yash said the National Investigation Agency, which works under the union home ministry, does not want to “leak anything as it will make the case weaker”. “They are not even giving the copy of the chargesheet,” he said.

The family has received Rs 50 lakh in compensation from the Gehlot government. A few days after the murder, Yash and his brother Tarun got government jobs – as promised by the state government – at the Udaipur district magistrate office.

BJP leader Kapil Mishra also raised “over Rs 1 crore” for the family, according to Yash.

Life after Kanhaiya Lal

The living room on the first floor had a portrait of the tailor, flanked by swords and shields, prepared by a painter from Jaipur. The room also had a sofa, blinds, an LED screen airing live footage from CCTV cameras, and a wooden floor. When Newslaundry visited the house last year, the room was devoid of these facilities.

In another room, Kanhaiya Lal’s pedal sewing machine lay in a corner. On the ground floor, a constable deployed for security noted down the contact details of all visitors and why they were visiting. 

So far, eight accused men are in jail and another recently got bail, Yash said. The family has resolved to not celebrate any festival until the accused are convicted. 

“Even the ashes have not been immersed in the Ganga. We will do it only after justice,” said Yash.

When asked what has changed for the family since the incident, Yash said he could never fill his father’s shoes. “The way he used to run the family and manage everything on his own, I may not be able to emulate him. Even my uncles used to consult him over various issues.”  

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Dark street

Around eight km away from the house, Kanhaiya Lal’s shop – Supreme Tailors – at Maldas Street was shut. In the bylane, of the 15-odd shops, only three were open. 

One of the tailors in the street was vexed with what Modi said in his Chittorgarh speech. “I don’t know why Modi is opening old wounds. Rather than healing them or bringing peace to the city, he talks about the murder. He is shameless. There are so many people-centric issues that political leaders should talk about. It’s expected that fringe leaders may raise the issue but not from the prime minister,” he said on the condition of anonymity as he did not want “unwanted attention”.

“The BJP talks about a Hindu Rashtra. For that we need to banish Muslims from the country. Can the BJP do that? Hindus and Muslims are like water and milk. You can't separate them. It has been more than one and a half years since the incident. It’s time to move on. If the BJP was in power, could it have stopped it? No. So political parties should focus on real issues,” he said.

Another tailor stressed that if the Congress government had paid attention to Kanhaiya Lal’s request for protection, he would have been saved. “But you can’t stop such incidents,” the tailor said, adding that business has taken a hit since the incident.

“This street was known for tailor shops. Now see there is nothing. No customer wants to come here. Business is down. I am fine with it because of other sources of income. But what about others who are still here?”

But he gave a thumbs up to the Gehlot government over welfare schemes while showing a smartphone that his mother, a widow, had received under the Indira Gandhi Smartphone Yojana.

Elections for the 200-seat assembly will be held on November 25. Votes will be counted on December 3.

This report has been published as part of the joint NL-TNM Election Fund and is supported by hundreds of readers. Click here to power our ground reports.

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