What have we made of the India that was emancipated from the shackles of colonialism by our freedom fighters and envisioned as a secular democracy by our Constitution?
• A country where ministers speak in support of rape-accused?
• A country where the horrible ordeal faced by a little girl is shockingly found to be a result of the communal hatred? A hatred that was perpetually harboured, and nurtured by a certain section of our polity. And subsequently, her pain belittled because of the one thing we, as a society, are sure of that her birth in India has entitled her to – her caste?
• A country where the perceived intensity of the bereaved’s agony varies in accordance with the state where she casts her vote and the electoral politics, that the state feels adequate to be inflicted on her?
• A country where there is scope for indecisiveness on what needs to be done in the event of such a heinous crime?
A crime can be analysed from various socio-political perspectives. But on what grounds can the upholders of law try to disrupt the normal course of legal proceeding and, consequently, deny justice to a victim on the basis of their social or political identity?
But this is exactly what has been happening in Kashmir in response to the inhuman incident of gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old nomad girl in Jammu’s Kathua. According to the charge sheet filed on April 9, she went missing from near her house in the Rasana village of the district on January 10, and was gang-raped thrice inside a prayer hall. Her dead body was found on January 17, lying in the bushes in a forest.
What has added further ghastliness to the incident is the reaction of a certain section of politicians. According to media reports, BJP leaders and members of the right-wing Hindu Ekta Manch had carried out protest march with the national tri-colour in support of one of the rape accused.
All this is indicative of the fact that the painful death of the child can, by no means, be adjudged as just another incident of rape and gender violence. Rather, we need to deliberate on the intersectionality of the issue and think about it from a socio-political perspective.
We, Indians, have always considered Kashmir as an integral part of our country, but the Indian state has historically neglected ordinary Kashmiri civilians and, as a result, their issues have rarely been featured in the mainstream Indian politics. This has surely been a crucial factor in the rise of militancy in Kashmir over the years.
However, ironically, this same militancy has been used as a pretext to justify any human rights violation in Kashmir, as has also been the case here. Today, all over India, minorities (every form of them) are subjected to some or other kind of marginalisation and are made to feel of themselves as a part of “some other India”. This sense of seclusion and insecurity is naturally more pronounced in Kashmir and the North-Eastern states which are being reduced to mere strategical battlegrounds by the ever-ensuing imperialist power struggle.
Under the BJP-PDP Government, this marginalisation has assumed uglier proportions in Kashmir. The constant communal rant by the BJP leaders and their vicious jibe at various caste and communities have, over time, culminated in targeted attacks on innocent people.
On an analogous front, the Bakerwals, one of the most oppressed communities of Kashmir, has been purportedly served an ultimatum through this heinous crime. The communal tension that has followed her death can only be termed as an artificially brewed situation manipulated for electoral gains. The obnoxious campaign in support of the accused has gained its legitimacy by the loud silence and intermittent whataboutery of the leaders of the ruling party at the Centre.
But at stake here is something more important than votes and seats – our humanity and it’s priority in our consciousness. How long we tolerate these inhuman atrocities in the name of religion will itself give evidence of how much of humanity is still left in us.
This is not the politicisation of an apolitical incident, because the incident being talked about here was never apolitical in the first place. It is a politically motivated crime and should be treated as such. This is not a time for any ‘apolitical’ pusillanimity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has broken his silence on this issue by assuring the country of justice for “our daughters”. However, it needs to be stressed through public opinion and outrage that a proper justice, here, must include an exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of the crime, as soon as possible. Anything else will be an insult.
In this context, we also need to condemn the dirty communal politics being orchestrated all over the country as the root of increasing incidence of hate crimes. We need to use our protests to demand an immediate crackdown on such incidents. We have to remember and remind others that silence is no more an option now: a silence over any injustice now is tantamount to making many more incidents like this happen across the country. Our silence is leaving others vulnerable to such crime and criminals who lurk in every nook and corner of our society.
In any case, it’s high time we divert our attention from the false jingoistic propaganda of the zealots who, nowadays, most prominently feature in the political spectrum of our country and question our sensibility: Is this the India that we have been taught to stand up for, as a mark of respect, whenever the National Anthem reverberates in our mind and mindfulness?