The news of the gruesome kidnapping, rape and murder of a 21-year-old civil defence officer caught my attention on social media.
The details of the event are hideously bizarre and heart-breaking. The woman, a police officer, went missing on August 27, 2021, from Lajpat Nagar. A week later, on September 4, I saw outrage on social media with a hashtag demanding justice for Rabiya Saifi.
As horrific and disturbing this event is, I could not help but wonder, why is it not being told more aggressively? I accept that there is some attention being paid to it on social media and it has sparked some fury, but that is about it.
In a time where we go on and on about how concerned we are about the rights of women in Afghanistan, when will we pause for a moment to take note of such incidents back home?
There are too many questions and too few answers. I mulled over the frightful crime inflicted upon the young woman, and how conveniently it has been neglected by the mainstream media. It dawned upon me that Indian Muslim women have had a rather complicated relationship with the media.
When Zaira Wasim decided to quit Bollywood and stated that her relationship with her religion was being threatened, she was berated for her choice and her Muslim identity was attacked across channels, on prime time shows. Apparently, an eighteen-year-old having a change of heart is more newsworthy than rape crimes or women’s safety ever will be.
During the anti-CAA protests, women protesters from Shaheen Bagh were constantly attacked, discredited and maligned by being labelled as anti-India.
It is paradoxical that on one hand, the mainstream media wants the Muslim woman to be assertive and when she does put her foot down and evinces her demands, she is dismissed as a terrorist.
The amount of energy spent on polarising Muslim woman’s actions is way more than that spent on their welfare.
While the rape case is being amplified only on social media, the silence from the legacy news channels and newspapers is deafening. A similar, eerie silence was observed even on social media over the Sulli Deals. It was found that the Muslim women were being auctioned online. They were fetishised for their identity and sold online.
But, we did not see any angst against the inhuman, humiliating treatment of Muslim women. Even when Safoora Zargar was arrested for her alleged role in anti-Muslim riots in Delhi, people were quick to take to Twitter to slut-shame her.
She faced character assassination for bearing a baby out of wedlock by (baseless accusations) government supporters. Not that it’s anybody’s business but Zargar is a married woman who was slapped with the UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] and thrown into Tihar jail while she was pregnant.
After all this, the government and the media have the audacity to observe a Muslim women’s rights day on August 1, to commemorate the enactment of the Muslim Women Act, 2019, which prohibits the practice of triple talaq in India.
Don’t get me wrong, I support the Act and applaud the impact it can make on so many lives, but not the trite ruse of empowering Indian Muslim Women.
It is hysterical that the people who vilify Muslim women— keep mum on crimes against them, call their choices regressive, all year round— pop out of the blue and devote a day to celebrate them.
Indeed, a Muslim woman has a complicated relationship with the media. It has repeatedly sent mixed signals over what it wants for the Muslim woman. I for one can positively say that “justice for Rabiya Saifi” and in fact, all the Indian women out there, is not on the cards.