Kathua Case: I Feel Let Down

She should be in school, studying, doing her homework, playing with her friends, bickering with her neighbours and living a joyful life. She loved horses. She loved to wander. She had that smile, those beautiful eyes. Her face continues to haunt me. She was just an eight-year-old. Just eight, who knew only love and joy.

As reported in the J&K police charge sheet“On 10-01-2018, the same Bakarwal girl met him in the forest area near a Bahari Balish tree and he asked her to accompany him on the assurance that he would help her in tracing out her missing horses.”

She believed them, thinking they were friendly until they became hostile.

“If you’ve succeeded in cheating someone, don’t think that the person is a fool! Do realise that you are the fool because that person trusted you much more than you deserve.”

I am from Kerala.

On April 14, we were supposed to celebrate Vishu, a very important festival here in Kerala. We celebrate with flowers and firecrackers. Personally, I have been working on a happiness project. I just didn’t feel like celebrating and couldn’t find the right motivation for the project in my current frame of mind. It has been the same for the last several days – since the details related to the horrific rape and murder which took place in Kathua came out. I have never been this angry.

I remember reading about this incident way back in February 2018. I had read about the Hindu Ekta Manch holding a protest march supporting the accused. News related to the flaring up of communal tensions came out. This was a massive ‘what the fuck’ moment for me. Since the Nirbhaya case happened, a lot of new regulations, laws and, promises were made. One of them is ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save a girl child, educate a girl child)’. Watching them protest made the phrase seem more like a warning than a slogan. The accused committed the crime to drive away the nomadic Muslims out of the area. I remember reading this news and wondering why no one was talking about this.

But then, the details from the charge sheet were reported and people came to know about the brutality of the case. The accused received the support of two BJP ministers – Chander Prakash Ganga and forest minister Lal Singh. Until the details from the charge sheet came to light, the nation had been silent. Why?

I hoped that people will eventually rally for the victim and it finally happened. By then, the incident had been reported in the New York Times. Then I witnessed the same process as usual – first, the journalists reacted, followed by activists and then celebrities. Finally, the case became a national outrage. People changed profile pictures, started sharing memes, sent angry notes to the politicians but we know it is just a matter of time before we no longer hear of this on social media.

Unlike the previous cases where the support was for the victim or the survivor, here we see a completely different scenario. People with the tricolour rallied for the accused and the protesting lawyers tried to shield the police officers from filing the charge sheet.

It made me feel sick to the stomach.

As a child, I was told that God loves children the most and that children could see and ‘touch’ God. The little girl, whose face haunts me, was kept in the home of God for days where she was tortured. Finally, she reached her ultimate fate. This was done by eight men in the name of nationalism and on behalf of the community they represent. These are the same people who go on and on about the ‘purity’ of women which is supposedly lost if a woman is raped. Well, menstruating women are not allowed in the temple due to this same reason but they had no second thoughts when it comes to violating a minor.

I hang my head in shame but the anger is still there.

I am angry over the fact that they did this in the name of a religion and using the flag as a shield. I am angry because they thought that rape is a tool that could be used to control and scare the vulnerable. I am angry that they used the very instrument between their legs that could give life to take away hers. I am pissed off because people used the flag – the very same flag we salute on Republic and Independence Day – to shield the accused. I am angry because two men – the ministers – who are supposed help people and represent them sided with wrongdoers. The media violated Sec 228A when they published the photos of the girl’s mutilated body.

As a citizen bound by the law, I am ashamed. As a Hindu, I am ashamed. As an Indian, I am ashamed.

Personally, I like to believe that the crime knows no religion, caste or gender. But we cannot rule out the communal aspect of this case as it is communal in itself. Ignoring is as bad as perpetuating it because silence is the worst form of violence in the eyes of humanity. And the shallow arguments, whataboutery and callousness will not help in bringing about a change to ensure that rape is never used as a weapon against the vulnerable. To ensure children’s safety, we have to tell those with power to never misuse the same. Prevention is better than cure but it can happen only if men can be convinced not to rape. If they realise that rape is a horrendous crime and not an act of bravery. That’s the only way to prevent it.

Before the departed soul and her grieving parents, I bow my head. This is an incident that has truly shamed India. But the hardhearted and inconsiderate reactions do not represent the India I believe in or want to be a part of. Despite all the insensitivity I witnessed from the authorities, I still have faith in the judicial system and hope that they will bring in the culprits by the book and fully denounce the intolerance and monstrosity behind this crime. Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat and IPS officer R.K Jalla‘s dedication restores my faith. Also, if you truly believe that the right person is not representing you, if you feel threatened, remember the power is there at your fingertips.

We should strive as hard as we can for the best. We should be the change we wish to see. Maybe then, she could rest in peace.

#NotInMyName 

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.