Delhi, Haryana, Mumbai, Punjab, Shimla, and now Jammu and Kashmir – places change but the dead remain the same. The dead who belong to the minority of a country, where cows have become more precious than man. It may sound hilarious but it is true – this has happened at several places in India. More than 3 people had been lynched to death just over rumors – either they had consumed beef or had taken part in cow slaughter. Earlier it was Mohammad Akhlaque of Dadri, UP who was beaten to death by a mob, allegedly over rumors that he had eaten beef. Then Noman was beaten in Himachal Pradesh over the rumors that he had been carrying cow from one place to another. Then there is Zahid of Kashmir, who was attacked by goons with a petrol bomb. It was not just a Hindu mob killing Muslims, but an anti-national mob attacking India’s plurality, diversity, and inclusiveness. By killing Zahid, a 23-year-old who left home to experience India’s plurality, diversity once again proved Jinnah correct about Partition.

On one side, the democratic nation grants a person the right to follow any religion, and on the other hand, it makes seditious laws prohibiting a person’s right to practice it. According to article 25 of the Indian Constitution, every person has the right to practice their faith as they choose, or no faith at all without fear or discrimination. This fundamental right gives a person the freedom to practice anything like what to eat and what not to eat. But a few fringe organizations do not agree with the Constitution and pass their own laws making cows more important than citizens. Even so, the fact remains that India is a diverse nation – religious pluralism is the basic backbone of this nation – but unfortunately these fringe organizations overlook this fact and try their best to divide the nation on the basis of caste, creed, and color.

Prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, seems busy campaigning about Digital India – which in fact is meant for connecting each and every person belonging to any religion to the internet. Indeed, the whole nation will remain in contact with each other – but on the other side, the racism continues. This clearly insinuates that bifurcation is also at its peak. The whole nation is divided, with cow becoming the main reason.

A few days ago, Zahid Rasool of Class 10 along with his brother Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, who is a truck conductor, and Rameez Ahmad, a truck driver, had some work in Delhi. Zahid had insisted his brother over it, who upon agreeing took Zahid to Delhi. There was a rumour at Udhampur that a cow had been slaughtered by some Muslims which angered some Hindu extremists. On their way back from Delhi they were stopped at Udhampur by some RSS goons. The only crime they had committed was that they were from Kashmir, where beef was being consumed every day.

The RSS goons shouted, “Yeh augarwadi hai” (they are terrorists), “Yeh log desh drohi hain” (they are traitors), “Yeh log Pakistani hain” (they are Pakistani), “Humein inko marna chaheay” (we should kill them).

The mob got out of hand and started throwing petrol bombs at them, injuring two people. Zahid, who was the first member of his family of 9 to go to high school, met his end due to injuries at Safdar Hospital.

Zahid did not come back on his own but was carried back in a box handled by many people. Wails and cries greeted him when his coffin reached home. Hundreds joined his funeral. Amid tears and cries, everyone around at the funeral prayer of Zahid was numb, full of grief and sorrow. It was indeed a doomsday for the whole of Kashmir. Following the news of Zahid’s death, local youth clashed with police and paramilitary CRPF men. During the clashes, police used pepper grenades to quell the protests and one of the grenades landed in the courtyard of Zahid’s house. As the grenade’s smoke made everybody momentarily blind and writhe with pain, the mourners ran to fetch water to ease the pain. “They don’t even let us mourn in peace, may they rot in hell,” the women cried out in unison.

For the past week, Botengo had been tense but calm, thanks to Zahid’s father. When the youth came out on streets following the October 9 attack that left Zahid Ahmad struggling for his life, the 70-year-old farmer had gone to the local mosque and made an announcement urging for peace. “We should not harm anyone,” he said, “My son needs your prayers.”

That restraint was shattered when the news came regarding Zahid’s death.

“I have lost everything,” cries Ghulam Rasool, waiting for Zahid’s body to reach from Delhi, “I have lost the light of my eyes.”

Outside, the protesters clashed with the police, transforming the highway into a battleground.

“It is enough now,” says a masked protester, “This government has a Hindutva agenda and we will not take it silently.”

It is believed that Zahid’s father rejected the compensation offered by the state government, and offered to give back twice the amount.

“The fact is that the DC sahib called me to his office. He put something in my hand. When I checked, it was Rs 10,000 and two air tickets,” he says, “Next day; I was told that Mufti sahib was coming for some inauguration. I blocked his car and handed him an envelope. It had Rs 20,000 and a cheque for another Rs 20,000. He took it, didn’t say anything and left.”

The family is demanding justice which they believe will never be given to them. People in Kashmir have lost all faith in the justice system; they believe that the courts, as directed by the government, favor the killers.

As the news of Zahid’s death reached Srinagar, Hurriyat separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and JKLF chairman Yasin malik, called for a valley-wide shutdown to protest against the dreadful killing.

People on social media blamed RSS and BJP for it. A hashtag was also dedicated to Zahid and his memory, “#BetiChusZahid” (I am also Zahid).