In December 2012, my husband and I came back from a year’s stint in London. We were given a temporary accommodation in an Infosys campus (his workplace then). As he went to work, I tuned into the news on TV. The words ‘gang-rape, New Delhi, moving bus, Safdarjung hospital’ scathed my ears. As the day advanced, more words like ‘iron rod, abdomen, intestines and genitals’ surfaced, which filled my heart with indescribable agony and anguish. “What would have happened had it been me?”, “Will she survive?”, “What does the future hold for her?” – these were my thoughts at the hour.
As the days passed, I was taken over by exasperation and had more questions hanging on my head – “Who are these people?”, “Where did they come from?”, “How are their families still supporting them?” Lastly and most importantly, “What is our system doing?” and “When will this country be safe for our women?” And yes, I feel this more often than not, “Why am I living in this country?”
Just as the year (2012) ended, so did our hope for Nirbhaya (Jyoti Kumar Pandey) to survive. The culprits were hung, and I felt – “Ab isse bura dekhne ko kya reh gaya hai?”
Enter the 8-year-old girl in Kathua.
Rape is an everyday affair in this country and each of these incidents has a painful story embedded in it. But then, there are some cases, which pluck your heart out, stomp it, ooze your blood and feelings and shatter you into pieces. They scar you for life and make you question your cognitive belief system. This is one of those cases.
Eight years – she was that young! I don’t want to get into details, as we all must have read that 18-page chargesheet, which did shrink our soul and humanity. But yes, there are words and lines I want to quote – “they performed rituals before they raped her”, “under the roof of Lord”, “raping her one last time before she was put to a miserable end”, “Hindu-Muslim fuels religious tension”, “Carrying national flags and shouting anti-Pakistan slogans to support the culprits.”
Jhanda ucha rahe hamara, hum bhale kitne hi gir jaaye. So this is the state of our country. We have fallen so low, that we have to find a new definition for “low”. You bring your national flag to cover all your sins and it’s justified – farq kya hi padta hai?
Farq bas ek baat se padta hai – your name, your religion. So that last word is the root cause of this fiasco – religion.
I am confident that the culprits think they have done this in the name of Lord Ram. They think they are right, they are performing their duty, their offerings. Because that’s what it has always been! No matter which religion it is, they think that’s what their Lord has taught them. The Lord never spoke to them but they speak on HIS behalf. They are the self-declared messengers of Lord.
See, they thought that tormenting an 8-year-old girl from a nomadic community will set the records straight, and drive away the Bakarwal community. This is the religion they are fighting about.
Need I say, religion does not teach you that? They are reading it wrong. But then, of course, they have not read the books; they have been fed by the evil. Otherwise, how can they abide by their acts? And then there are the supporters, including the administration, the lawmakers. Your soch disgusts me.
Let me tell you, my girl has been raised by two people who come from different faiths – and it is not anyone’s business. What we teach her is not what you should bother with. How she adjusts to that is none of your concern. Why are Indians so latched on to caste, creed, and religion? I have been my husband for the last 16 years and I know the looks we get, time and again. The bizarre comments we address when they see Shahzeel Jawed married to Saumya Srivastava. Yes, we married – and no, it is NOT YOUR BUSINESS. Why don’t you take your time and energy to do something constructive for your country, your family, and yourself?
I cannot take this little girl out of my head – her eyes haunt me. This morning, I confided in my sister how her big eyes remind me of Mysha (my daughter). Her mother addressed her as a “chirping bird” while we call Mysha is a “Chiya”. Her two ponytails, her innocence – everything is so relatable. She calls out to me more because I am raising Mysha Jawed. While the latter is related to me by blood, the earlier has pierced my soul. How many more will we sacrifice in the name of religion?
Lastly, be very careful about what you are feeding to your children. Hatred does not conquer overnight – it takes years to keep that thick layer of a mental block intact and in place. Don’t scuff me with the line – “Ah no! We are the educated crowd.” Education doesn’t provide for your religious opinion. You might have read, but may have understood it wrong. Can I suggest you to understand humanity before you see the name-tag? Over the years I have seen the worst communal remarks coming from the so-called-educated crowd. They are so open to understanding until it comes to religion. They become rigid, impervious to explanation and are full of opinions.
Like all, I am praying for the little soul. I am sure she is in a better place, where she is just a beautiful soul – pure and away from judgement and hatred. Meanwhile, we Indians need to think on how we should raise our children amidst such hatred and make sure these adversities are not clouding their heads. Like before, I still feel, “isse badtar kya hoga?” I hope I don’t get an answer.
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.