A blossoming bud nipped before the advent of her spring. De-chastised by monstrous hands at an age when she was yet to perceive the notion of morality. An 8-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped three months ago, in Kathua, a remote area of Jammu and Kashmir.
She was abducted from a nearby forest where she went to graze her horses every day; she was sedated and subjected to horrendous episodes of forcible sexual assault, she was brought to the temple where she was raped by evil men for several days. Her perpetrators include a retired government official, four police officers and a juvenile, all belonging to the local Hindu community that has been involved in a land dispute with the nomad tribe of Bakarwals. The child was brutally gang-raped and murdered on the pretext of belonging to a Muslim-Bakwarwal family – a crime targeted against the community to drive away the nomads from their lands.
The most shocking fact about this unfortunate incident is that it took three months to garner the wrath of the public conscience. The whole nation was silent on this case for three long months, because it was backed by BJP ministers in power who stood in support of the rapists and were demanding for their release. These rallies that were carried out by the self-proclaimed and self-styled Hindu extremists under the name “Hindu Ekta Munch” in support of the rapists, are an assault on the innocence of the murdered child.
The extremist Hindutva schism of the country has made India vulnerable to immense communal violence where the perpetrators of such hatred do not fear the law because the whole edifice of the RSS-BJP government finds its roots in this communal hatred against the Indian minorities. But the incredible work of diligent police officers like Naveed Peerzada, Ramesh Kumar Jalla and DYSP Shewatambri Sharma has made it possible to excavate the entire case. And it, in the times of lawless politics, really is a huge achievement that arrests were made, despite the tampering of evidence and attempts to mislead the investigating authorities. Even the lawyer of the rape victim’s family, Deepika S. Rajawat, had been threatened and on Twitter, she said, “I don’t know till when I will be alive. I can be raped, my modesty can be outraged, I can be killed, I can be damaged. I was threatened yesterday that ‘we will not forgive you’. I am going to tell SC tomorrow that I am in danger.”
The little girl was starved, sedated and raped in a temple; at a sacred place. The details of the rape, explicitly defined, and the images of the murdered child, though shared innocently, across social media forums have fed the gruesome demand of online scavengers, and has outraged the innocence of the 8-year old even more. What’s utterly ironic is that in the face of such a horrific crime, rallies were held in the favour of her trespassers. Lawyers tried to stop the police from entering the court to file a charge sheet.
There was only a little sigh of relief when the whole nation stood in union against the monstrous act committed, and demanded justice. Here in Kashmir valley, a massive surge of protests and solidarity candle marches carried out by pressure groups, students, journalists and many other sections of the civil society, were held. And an atmosphere was created wherein two BJP ministers, who had spoken in favour of the accused rapists, of J&K Government had to file a resignation which was accepted by Chief Minister and the Governor of the State.
Sexual violence is a part of a larger conspiracy to terrorise the minority communities in India – wherein there has been an alarming increase in the crimes against women, including molestation and rapes. In a nation wherein women are constantly unsafe, culprits continue to commit such crimes with impunity. Though the 8-year-old’s name has found space in the national media, the history of Kashmir is filled with bone-chilling examples of Kunan Poshpora, Asiya Neelofar and a thousand other cases which never found justice. But, now, as the Kathua rapists stand behind bars, it rests upon us as a moral responsibility that criminals of this heinous crime are brought to justice. Despite protests from civil society, it is highly questionable that why there is a delay in justice.
Author Faiz Dijoo is the Founder And Chairman of the organisation Sunrise In Kashmir.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.