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Kathua Rape Case: Has Religion Taken Precedence Over Humanity?

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I began writing about this ghastly incident with a very heavy heart. A few days back, my day started with a Facebook post shared by a friend which read: “The gory details of the Kathua gang-rape shows that the India we live in is NOT really shining.” Going through the gruesome details mentioned in the post, I drew a deep shuddering breath. The grim news of the gang-rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl was described with such horrific detail that my innate faith in humanity actually made me question the article – “Is this news authentic?” The details mentioned in the post seemed too heinous to be true. Should I finally stop having even an iota of faith in humanity now?

Soon enough, my worst fears came true. When I finally mustered courage to write about this, the  topmost trend in Twitter (in India) was #JusticeforAsifa. After all, the rape and murder of a little girl had sparked outrage in India. In a frantic attempt to learn about any news of the 8-year-old child’s ‘survival’, I went through almost 100 articles and videos on this incident. I wish I could have found any such news. I was deeply appalled!

On January 10, 2018, an 8-year-old girl went missing in Kathua near Jammu. Then, the girl’s body was recovered seven days later on January 17, 2018. The young child had been found gang-raped and murdered. The irony is that this news started doing the rounds on social media only recently – that is, almost 3 months after the actual incident. This makes me wonder if a heinous crime such as rape commands more coverage and spotlight only when it happens in certain places like Delhi, and not in other regions like Jammu and Kashmir.

Rape is rape, after all. It is a heinous crime and should be condemned with immediate action and severe punishment by the judiciary. But wait – this is India, and any such incident has to first get its due weight by unnecessary propaganda on political, social and (in this case) communal levels.

The highlights on Twitter Moments stated

“An 8-year-old girl was brutally raped and murdered in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in January this year. The incident sparked violent protests in the area as the men arrested for the crime are Hindu, and the child belonged to a nomadic community of Muslim shepherds.”

My blood boils at the sight of two specific words in the above statement – ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’. Hats off to those people who actually conducted protests in the area to support the accused! I’m ashamed to be a part of a country where people are so blinded by religion that they actually fail to see the agony of the parents of an 8-year old child, who was brutally gang-raped and murdered.

My heart shudders to even imagine what the 8-year old girl must have gone through, while she was held captive, repeatedly raped for days, kept on sedatives and then brutally murdered. Did the child even have any life left in her body, when she was murdered?

According to IndiaTimes –

“ ‘It was about land,’ said Talib Hussain, a tribal rights activist and lawyer. He was also arrested & threatened by the Police for protesting in favour of Asifa’s family.”

Nothing on this earth, can ever justify rape. Has it become so normal to rape and kill for land? The arrested men told the investigators that their motive was to drive the nomadic community (to which the girl belonged) out of the area. According to New York Times, India is in the midst of religious tensions against the backdrop of this rape incident.

All the leading news channels’ ‘prime time’ were filled with political accusations. Hindu nationalists have turned it into a rallying cry – strangely enough, not to demand justice for the girl, but to defend the accused. These protests have been triggered because the arrested men are Hindu, whereas the girl and the nomadic community, the Bakarwals, are Muslims. I still can’t believe that a mob of lawyers (who blocked the entrance when the police reached the court premises to file a chargesheet) actually used our national flag to defend the rapists. This has even taken a political turn, and has almost been turned into a battle between two powerful political parties of the country. An innocent child’s gang-rape and murder, the bribery of local policemen, attempts to botch up the investigation, a political and communal propaganda – what a tale of depravity in my country!

Another aspect which agitates me to the core is the involvement of a so-called ‘juvenile’ in these rape cases. The accused in this case includes eight men, of which one is a retired government official. Four police officers and a ‘juvenile’ have also been indicted. In the multiple articles I have gone through since the morning, each person’s name in the accused list is explicitly mentioned, except the juvenile’s. Hats off to the laws of our land, which allows an accused juvenile to enjoy their right to privacy! When juveniles commit crimes which definitely do not qualify as a ‘child’s act’, then why are they still treated as children? Did we not learn our lesson from the Nirbhaya rape incident in 2012?

Collectively, as a society, we seem to have failed miserably. I feel numb as I’m about to end this article. As a woman of this country, I feel unsafe and am deeply frustrated at the sorry state of affairs in my nation. I have countless questions which still remain unanswered –

1. Has religion taken precedence over humanity now?

2. Does religion actually make people blind to the realities of a dastardly crime?

3. As a society, have we really stooped so low that committing a heinous crime like rape has become a casual solution for land-related disputes?

4. Have we become a country which is so morally deprived that we begin to politicise an immoral crime like rape?

5. When can this country’s judiciary treat rape as an unforgivable crime – and the perpetrators as criminals, irrespective of age?

6. Will India ever become a safe haven for kids, girls and women?

With a heavy heart, I sign off with a faint glimmer of hope that every cloud has a silver lining. Maybe someday, India will really shine!

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Featured image used for representative purposes only.

If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at dial1098@childlineindia.org.in. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.

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