Lucknow: On September 28, Danish Akhlaq felt cold fear when the door of his home broke open and a group of men rushed in. He had known most of them since childhood, but that didn't stop him from telling himself: "Danish, today you are dead."
22-year-old Danish survived the mob attack in the village in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri, in which his father Mohammad Akhlaq was killed.
In an incident that became the pivot of the "intolerance" debate in the country, the two were dragged out of their home and beaten with bricks after announcements were made at a local temple that a calf had been slaughtered and the Akhlaqs had beef at home.
"We were beaten that day for no fault of ours. We were attacked without any reason. If you stay in a village where very few of your own community live, and then you are beaten without any reason, can you go back? I don't ever want to go back," Danish Akhlaq told NDTV.
"I was wounded very badly, but mostly here," he said, placing his hand over his heart.
Mohammad Akhlaq, 52, died on the spot. Danish spent two months in hospital with severe injuries. His eye popped out of the socket and had to be surgically fixed. There are pieces of broken bones in his body that have to be taken out. A jagged scar on his head stood out as he visited Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow on Sunday.
"Those who beat us, they were all friends. I knew 60-70 per cent of the attackers. We had shut our gate but it was not bolted. Then we heard the mob pushing hard at our door, which gave way. I recognized those who held me, I recognized those who killed my father," said Danish.
"I don't know why it happened. I had never even fought with these people when we were in school."
Danish, along with his family, now lives in Chennai with his older brother Sartaj, who is a corporal with the Indian Air Force. The family says they don't feel secure about returning to their village since they named their attackers to the police.
Mohammad Sartaj had famously said, when asked whether he felt any anger towards their neighbours at the village: "Saare jahaan se accha, Hindustan hamara."