In season of riots, Hindu father-Muslim son duo head to Delhi as ideals

Lucknow's Hindu-Muslim father-son duo, Aiku Lal Sandil and Akbar, will be honoured at Delhi's Phoolwalon ki Sair, which celebrates communal harmony, on Saturday.

Akbar, a Muslim by birth, was adopted by Aiku Lal, a Hindu, in 2003 when Akbar landed in Lucknow after he got separated from his father in Allahabad when the latter was buying liquor from a shop there.

The father-son relationship shared by Aiku Lal and Akbar was acknowledged for the first time when the Allahabad High Court in January 2008 turned down Akbar's biological mother Shahnaz Begum's habeas corpus petition in which she had argued that since Akbar was a Muslim, if Sandil raised him, it would "create dichotomy and disharmony in the social sphere and in their relationship".

Justice Barkat Ali Zaidi, in his judgment, had said that India is a secular country where the consideration of caste and creed should not be allowed to prevail. "...If there can be inter-caste marriages... there can also be an inter-caste 'father and son' relationship and that need not raise eyebrows," the judgment said.

Last year, Shahnaz moved the Supreme Court seeking Akbar's custody, where the case is still pending.

Reading the story of the duo last year, Anjuman-Sair-e-Gul Faroshan, which organises Phoolwalon ki Sair, decided to honour Aiku and Akbar and "celebrate the larger message of communal harmony and integration", said Rahul Garg, executive member of the society.

"This is the first time we are honouring someone in the festival, which is a mark of communal harmony itself. If such cases are found in future, we will continue the award further," said Garg. "We will be giving Aiku Lal a shield, a shawl and a cash prize of Rs 11,000," said Usha Kumar, general secretary of the organisation.

Aiku Lal, who runs a tea stall behind Baradari in Lucknow, is overjoyed by the felicitation. "This is our first award and a great honour for me and my son," Aiku told The Indian Express.

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