Chilling details have emerged of the abduction, rape and murder of the tribal girl in Jammu by the goons affiliated to right wing Hindu organisations. More chilling is the fact that Jammu remained closed in support of those who were accused of the heinous and gruesome crime. The lawyers and advocates of the courts who are supposed to protect law have come out openly in support of the accused who according to the charge sheet filed in the court abducted the girl, raped her inside the temple precinct and murdered her.
What was the fault of this innocent 8-year-old child? The brutal murder after serial rape has left all right thinking people absolutely speechless. Yet the way Hindu organisations led by the Bhartiya Janata Party have communalized the entire issue is not only despicable but outright shameful and needs to be condemned unconditionally.
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Bakarwal is a nomadic Muslim group in Jammu and Kashmir and was included in the list of Scheduled Tribe in 2011 after a long battle by the community. According to reports, this group of Gujjar-Bakarwal constitutes 11 per cent of the total population in J&K. The main traditional occupation of this group is sheep and goat herding for centuries as they migrate to Kashmir valley and Ladakh in summer and to Jammu in winter.
The duality of the Sangh agenda is visible very much in Jammu where on one side they support the abrogation of article 370 while on the other it opposes the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 in J&K out of fear that this would alter the demography in the ‘Hindu’ Jammu region. It is this deeply divided communal psychology which has blinded the entire Hindu community in the city that they have come out in open to support the criminals who have shamed entire humanity.
According to reports available, the entire conspiracy was hatched to drive away the Bakarwal community from the area who used to graze their sheep and goats there. For fulfilling their vicious agenda the gang leader, the temple custodian Sanji Ram allegedly conspired with his sons, minor nephew and some local police personnel. It is beyond imagination that an eight year old child would be abducted by the criminals, brought to the temple complex, sedated, drugged and repeatedly raped by all the conspirators who brutally killed her after several days.
The incident of her disappearance came to light on January 10th and her father lodged an FIR on January 12th but nothing happened. Even if the police force and its officers were looking for the girl, little did they know that some of their own personnel were raping and torturing the innocent child inside the temple complex. The father of the innocent girl child visited the vicinity of the temple to inquire about her daughter only to be told they didn’t know. The Bakarwal community used to be intimidated by this goon who has now become a ‘victim’ according to the Hindu organisations who want to hand this case to CBI as they have no ‘faith’ in J&K police.
Any self-respecting community or people would stand up against such crime. But alas what we are witnessing in Jammu today is the brazen manner in which political parties and lawyers have converted the entire issue into a Hindu-Muslim issue. Even in a war you cannot justify the raping of a child. It is the perversion of our mindset that we are unable to unconditionally condemn the ghastly crime. While the two ministers in Mehbooba government belonging to the BJP have openly come in support of the lawyers, the Congress and other national parties have not brought themselves to glory by keeping a conspicuous silence on the issue.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has kept quiet on the issue and we know well that the parties don’t want to be seen as ‘pro-Muslim’. It is not merely the communal outfits which are to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs in India today because the failure to respond decisively by the secular parties needs to be equally condemned. If we do not raise the issue of Muslims then definitely they will have their own parties and organisations raising the issue. If over 200 million Muslims of India are unable to get justice and response from political parties because of the fear of a Hindu backlash then we have completely failed to protect the very idea of India as envisaged by our constitutional forefathers.
If a nomadic child’s religious identity has resulted in conspicuous silence on the part of the media and political parties to the extent that they are unable to take a stand against this gruesome murder after beastly gang rape then, I can say, as a nation our conscious is dead. There is nothing left here when the pains, sufferings, killings, tortures of the people don’t affect us because of their faith. We must hang our head in shame.
Sanji Ram, temple custodian, reportedly used to misbehave and intimidate Bakarwal women. This is not unusual as nomadic tribes are hounded by not merely the forest officials but also by the locals everywhere as they are not technically allowed by the villagers to stay. India does not even have a proper national policy on nomads. We know that the Gujjars from Kashmir to Uttarakhand who move around in the forests are exploited by not just the forest officials but during the last few years they have been also intimidated by the Hindutva elements plunging the entire issue into a new low, between the suitable Hindu-Muslim binary.
On December 16th, 2012, when a young woman Nirbhaya was brutally gang raped and assaulted in a moving bus in Delhi, we all felt the chill. The entire country took to the streets. We saw the protest at India Gate and it looked as if the protest would overthrow the government of that time. The Hindutva organisations jumped onto the bandwagon demanding death penalty to the culprits. Some of them went a step further, demanding that all the accused be hanged by the light pole at the Jantar Mantar, then a focal point of agitating activists.
We saw Gayatri Mantra being recited and a small temple being built. Abuses of worst kind were hurled at the culprits. As upper castes in Delhi came to learn of the lower caste background of the goons it was easier to demand the severest punishment. Aunties and uncles became ‘feminists’ and ‘moralists’ asking for the death penalty. The government succumbed to the huge pressure built around it. For years, we had Nirbhaya on our lips. Media would discuss day and night about it and an act was passed in a hurry. We don’t know whether such acts have helped but we know India since then has worsened.
A dark reality is that popular protest movements in India greatly benefit the Sangh Parivar. Whether it was JP Narain’s and Ram Manohar Lohia’s “anti-Congressism” or Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, or the justice for Nirbhaya movement, the Sangh Parivar benefitted from all these mass unrests. After assuming power in 2014, we saw how dangerous they can be when rape and violence has been used as a tool to intimidate and polarize society. Not a single day has passed since May 2014 when we are not witnessing efforts to vitiate the social fabric and justify mob violence under various pretexts.
As Savarna dominance in our political, cultural and social life now stand challenged by the vast majority of Bahujans, the poisoning of young minds against the Muslims become essential. Hence ways and means are devised to polarize the people through false narratives and stories. Events in the last three years show how the SanghParivar has been building narratives and churning stories about those who are violated while encouraging such elements unashamedly who have been accused. Their earlier moral high ground has been exposed now with none of the BJP spokespersons showing the courage to speak up against such crime, against those justifying it under different pretexts.
If Kathua’s case is an open defiance against humanity in the name of religion then the Unnao’s horror story is the case of class dominance and male supremacy. It also reflects that merely belonging to the same community is no guarantee for a woman’s protection. The Thakur girl who was raped and who came to meet Yogi Adityanath in person was further humiliated and harassed. Her father was arrested, beaten mercilessly just because she dared to complain. He was tortured in custody. The poor man died in the hospital. If one can have senses and feeling then words are not enough to feel the pain and anguish of this girl.
And look at the Sanghi Propaganda. They are alleging that this girl has the habit of flirting and making false complaints. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister has no time for her while his police continues to be highly respectful of the Thakur MLA who allegedly exploited the girl to the maximum. It is not surprising therefore that his ‘ideal’ wife has come out in his support. This is not unusual. Often, despite knowing the facts about their husbands women continue to support them because they have been made so domesticated and helpless that they can’t revolt against a wrong done to anyone in the fraternity. Isn’t it despicable and beyond belief how a father in Jammu rapes a minor along with his sons and minor nephew? Is this not a sign of a sick society where we are unable to challenge a wrong in the family with other woman and a father involves his children in this utterly ghastly crime?
The way things are one should not be surprised to find Hindutva trolls looking for cases where the accused are either Muslims or Dalits so that they can use it to whip ‘sickulars’. Their favorite devotees are trained in questioning the motive and giving the incident a communal colour so when a Kathua happens they ask what about when Muslims rape Hindu girls? Well, it is important to answer this question once for all. We are against all forms of violence, against any one, at any level, and rule of law as per international norms must be implemented.
The lawyers who are hounding Ms Deepika Ranawat, the brave woman who decided to take up the case of child who is no more has been threatened and boycotted by the Jammu Bar Association, violating all norms and ethics that the noble legal profession claims to espouse. Even an enemy needs legal protection as per prescribed legal procedures. Secondly, forget Kathua, what answer would they give to the Rajput girl who has allegedly been violated by an MLA of her own caste who is being protected by the Thakur administration of Yogi Adityanath. Remember, it is the Rajput patriarchy which benefitted from the BJP the most during the last elections. Where are the Karni Senas who were in the street fighting for the ‘honor’ of a fictitious queen, burning buses, destroying theaters and organising ‘rasta roko?
What we are witnessing today is not entirely unprecedented. Rape charges against Swami Chinmayananda have been withdrawn by the Uttar Pradesh government. When Babas are found implicated in sex scandals Sanghis claim its a ‘conspiracy’ against Hindu religious leaders.
We frequently hear of horrific videos with women being paraded naked, beaten up for some ‘fault’ or other. The growing incidents of street violence and mob justice will only make our criminal justice system redundant. I am sounding alarm bell that we are passing through a serious crisis which is not merely political or legal but moral. The justification of violence or celebration of it including rape signals the perversion in our thought and life. It will have serious psychological crisis in society.
It is good that Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke against this crime and organized a candle march in Delhi last night. We appreciate his gesture and statement that the rape and murder of the Bakarwal girl was a crime against humanity. But he and his party must not shy away from taking action against his party men who supported the Jammu Bandh. What happened in Jammu or in Uttar Pradesh is not merely a party issue but a much larger issue where such crimes are being exonerated by the top leadership of the party. We have not heard a single regret from the top leadership of the BJP. We have not heard any expression of concern, condemnation or shock which is baffling.
The Bakarwal girl was brutalized to throw her community of nomads out from the land they graze and protect. She became a ‘shaheed’ for her land. She was not killed being a Muslim but being a native tribe. As a report quoted a Gujjar Bakarwal leader saying, “Muslims of the valley see us as tribals while the Hindus consider us Muslims”. Both look down upon them. Having worked and known some of these nomadic communities, I can say that the caste Hindus look down upon them while Muslims never owned them. The villages never want them to be part of it.
World over, governments have worked to provide and protect the pastoral lands which is the zone of the nomadic communities but in India we have no policy. The Gujjar-Bakarwal are truly an indigenous population and hence need full protection. We would like the government to honour the law and protect the land and livelihood of the community. Any attempt to polarize it through the fictitious game of demographic changes should be seriously dealt with.
It would be better for the ruling dispensation, who face a serious credibility crisis with two brutal rapes in Kathua and Unnao, to not only apologise but act impartially to protect the dignity of women which has been attacked in both the cases. In J&K she was a girl child who needs all our sympathies. In Unnao, it was a simple upper caste girl whose family were the supporter of the BJP and its Thakur MLA. In Unnao the administration failed to protect the honor of the girl and her family while in Kathua, the police did an exemplary work and prepared the charge-sheet after much public pressure.
What makes the Kathua incident serious and absolutely condemnable is the way the entire Hindu community has been made to come out on the streets to protest against the charge-sheet. When we have court of law, can’t we wait for some days and scrutinize facts in the courts. But the Jammu lawyers just followed what the lawyers did in Patiala House court of Delhi when the JNU students were taken there on alleged charges of sedition. It is a clear case of spoiling the case, putting pressure on judges through public discourse as well as media. It is serious. India and its democracy would be the loser but then can we expect anything better from those who don’t have any faith in democracy itself? The people of this country need to unite and organize themselves to thwart attempt of those who want to balkanize India and divide each village on communal lines. India is much bigger than the petty minded politicians who wish to play their favorite games over the dead bodies of people.
We are with the family and community of to which the girl child belonged and we will stand with all those fighting for justice for her. We stand in solidarity with the brave young woman from Unnao who dared to speak up against a feudal male chaunvinist which tragically resulted in brutal death of her father at the hands of goons in uniform. We hope India’s criminal justice system, its civil society and its public at large will stand together and learn a few lessons from these gory incidents.
History will not forgive us if we do not stand up for truth and honour of two innocent persons. It is not the case of this religion or that caste but fellow citizens of this country who have been violated and need full protection and justice from its Constitution and legal framework. Will the system deliver?