By Sajla Chawla:
Another girl child was abducted, raped, tortured and her genitals mutilated. And yet another Women’s Day was celebrated in India with aplomb, as if nothing had happened.
The child, Asifa Bano, who looked like a delicate flower, was an 8-year-old girl from a nomadic community in Rasana village, Kathua, Kashmir. Reportedly, by his own confession, the rapist was a 28-year-old cop, Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer in the state police department.
He was supposed to be the custodian of law. He was supposed to protect her. And the little girl trusted him and his uniform. Could any betrayal be more inhuman?
Despite this heinous crime, there hasn’t been much protest, unlike the time when Nirbhaya was killed. The media, the politicians and even the people of India, barring a few Kashmiri natives, are quiet.
Why? Is it because Asifa was a Muslim who belonged to a very small nomadic community in a Hindu-dominated village – in Kashmir? Is this the leading question being asked?
So let me answer it.
According to reports, no investigation was conducted when Asifa’s parents filed a ‘missing child’ complaint. Once the body was found and the police complaint was filed, the police of Kathua conducted an ineffective enquiry. According to the letter to SP Vaid, the Director General of Police, the Crime Branch that took over the probe stated that Asifa’s clothes, which were full of blood and mud, were washed by the Kathua police. Only then were they sent to the forensic laboratory. It was also alleged that the Kathua police didn’t preserve the crime scene.
The drug that was used to sedate Asifa had been bought from a medical shop in Kathua, days before she was kidnapped, raped and tortured. The crime was clearly premeditated. Sources in the police stated that the crime and the act of botching it up were done to drive away the small Muslim nomadic community from that area.
And yet, India remains quiet, albeit not so quiet perhaps…
The Hindu Ekta Manch takes up this case, and vociferously so – not for demanding justice for Asifa, but to raise a clamour for the arrested cop to be released. And no, their activities don’t end here. They also lead a huge protest march, use the national flag and chant “Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Glory to Mother India).”
Even then, the activities don’t stop. At the beginning of March, two senior BJP ministers attend a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch. One of them says, “What if a girl has died? Many girls have died here.”
And on March 8, the Hindu Ekta Manch tried to celebrate Women’s Day by organising another rally protesting against the arrest of the accused rapist.
And after all this, the villagers do not allow Asifa’s father to bury her body in the small plot of land he owns. She is now buried in a forest, several kilometers away.
Is this our culture and civilisation that the Hindu fundamentalists harangue on?
Is the gruesome murder of a child so small a crime that there is mass call for the accused to be released?
Have we, as a country, degenerated to the extent that we will communalise the rape, torture and murder of a 8-year-old girl?
Do political parties stoop to this low a level only to get political mileage from such barbaric acts?
And yet, there seems to be a unified chorus that wants the accused rapist to be released, just because he belongs to a certain community and a certain religion.
If protecting an accused rapist by using the Indian flag is equivalent to showing nationalist fervor for the motherland, then millions of Indians should better alienate themselves from this ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ kind of nationalism.
As Indian citizens, we do not want our flag to be misused to save criminals. We do not want the kind of nationalism where rallies and marches are orchestrated to protect a rapist. As citizens of India, we refute this concept of a mother (or motherland) that is partial towards a certain class, region, caste or religion.
Communalism in India seems to be an inherently male discourse which is fascist and patriarchal. It often thrives on the notion that a certain group of people are more entitled than others – and hence, the women of the other group can be used as objects for establishing the hierarchy and for perpetrating their sense of entitlement.
How can people who prey on an 8-year-old girl for the satisfaction of their psychopathic sexual desires, and the people who support them and then take refuge in nationalism, have love for the motherland? Within their own cliched terms of viewing the country as a mother, how can we expect them to honor the motherland when they cannot honor the daughter of that very land?
The leaders who wrote our Constitution and the Preamble wrote it with wisdom and fortitude. They included the words ‘secular’, ‘equality’ and ‘justice’ with a purpose. And that purpose was to have a society where each citizen would have equal rights and where women would be protected by the very basic tenets of the Preamble.
If one really understands and respects the true meaning of motherhood, then ‘Bharat Mata’ is supposed to protect all the people and not just the majority. For a mother, a Muslim child is not any less precious than a Hindu child. And I am sure this motherland wants justice for her small, tender 8-year-old daughter, Asifa.
The author is the vice-president of the Ozone group.