Every time I read news posts about the Kathua rape incident, my eyes well up. My blood boils and a volcano rages inside me. How can we communally colour the brutal murder of an innocent child and try to shield the accused under an umbrella of nationalism? The protesters shouting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ while vouching for the accused show how narrow-minded and erroneous our definition of patriotism has become.
Every time I read about the Kathua girl, I do not know why but I remember the movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan and the smile of the character Munni flashes in front of my eyes. That girl loved sheep and reared them, like the Kathua victim loved grazing horses. She had missed her train when she got down unaccompanied to help a poor lamb out of the ditch. She too had once gotten lost when she went looking for lost sheep.
But there were good samaritans in that story. Men who stood up, defied customs and traditions, and went one step ahead to help the little girl reunite with her family. Religious and national boundaries were forgotten and pure love and compassion had prevailed. That girl too was from Kashmir, only on the other side of the LoC.
But alas, only reel life can have heroes like that. Today religion has polarised our society and thought process to such depths that we cannot empathise (or at the least sympathise) with the anguish of her two sets of grieving parents and other family members. We do not want her buried in the soil where the family wishes her to rest. Even if we give the entire land of the nation for her to rest, her soul will probably still not get peace, such was the cruelty meted out to the little soul.
And worse, there are cries of support for the perpetrators of the crime. And these are not just cries of support, but they are clubbed together with elements of (false) nationalism. Anyone who dares to defy it is considered fit to be slain, shot, or parceled to Pakistan. Shame, India! Shame that even after seventy years of Independence, women and minor girls are brutally treated.
And shame on these times when religion – which teaches love, fair treatment, compassion and kindness – gets in your way of grieving for a tiny soul that died an unfair, cruel, and premature death. No amount of economic progress can hide the barbarism and erosion of humanity that we witness today.
Have we forgotten that co-existence between people of different faiths, beliefs, practices, and cultures is possible? Or is it something that we don’t want now? The shocking way in which some people decided to get rid of the Bakerwal community from Rasana’s hills is not a one-of-a-kind story in India today. Many other regions in India, like Dadri, too witness polarisation between communities based on faith, caste, language, or occupation.
I remember the days when we used to proudly write essays on topics like ‘Diversity is India’s Strength’ in our school days. But gone are those days, I guess.
Even as India’s girls come back home to applause with medals from the Gold Coast, the air will ring loud with cries of pain and calls of justice from the little souls of many a girl who have lost their lives and undergone much trauma because of such inhuman acts.