Humanity Ashamed | Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Chilling details have emerged of the abduction, rape and murder of the tribal girl in Jammu by the goons affiliated to the 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 precincts and murdered her. What was the fault of this innocent 8 years old child Asifa ? The brutal murder after serial rape has left all the right thinking people absolutely speechless yet the way Hindu organisations led by the Bhartiya Janata Party has communalized the entire issue is not only despicable but outright shameful and need to be condemned unconditionally.
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 raised by the community. According to reports, this group of Gujjar-Bakarwal constitutes 11% 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 the summers while to Jammu in the winters.
The duality of the Sangh agenda is visible very much in Jammu when on the one side they claim to support the abrogation of article 370 but the other side opposes the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 in J & K which they fear would alter the demography in the ‘Hindu’ Jammu. 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 shamed the entire humanity. According to the 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, then the temple custodian Sanji Ram conspired with his sons, minor nephew and some local police personnel. It is beyond imagination that an eight years old child would be abducted by the criminal, brought to the temple complex, sedated, drugged and repeatedly raped by all the conspirators who later 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 Asifa came to the temple side and wanted to know about her daughter but he got the usual answer ‘they don’t know’. The Bekharwal 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.
Any self-respecting community or people would stand up against such crime which ashamed the entire humanity but alas what we are witnessing in Jammu today is the brazen-faced manner the political parties and lawyers have converted the entire issue into a Hindu Muslim issue. Even if it is a war, you cannot justify the criminal act of raping 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 Bharatiya Janata Party 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 need 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 whose identity has resulted in conspicuous silence for the media and political parties 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 was known to misbehave and intimidate the 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 the Van Gujjars from Kashmir to Uttarakhand move around in the forest and 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 binary of Hindu and Muslims.
On December 16th, 2012, when a young girl Nirbhaya was brutally gang raped and assaulted in a moving bus in Delhi, we all felt the chill. The entire country was in the street. 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 into the bandwagon of it demanding death penalty to the culprits, some of them went a step further, that all the accused be hanged to the light pole at the Jantar Mantar which became the focal point of the agitating activists. We saw Gayatri Mantra being recited and a small temple was built. Abuses of worst kind were hurled at the culprits because most of the upper castes in Delhi have found out the caste locations of these goons so it was easier to demand the severe punishment. The Aunties and Uncles became ‘feminist’ and ‘moralists’ asking for the death penalty and abusing the law. 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 the popular protest movements in India helped the Sangh Parivar the best. Whether it was JP-Lohia’s anti congressism or Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement or the Nirbhaya justice movement, the Sangh element benefitted from these mass unrests. After assuming uncontrolled power in 2014, we saw how dangerous they can be when rape and violence has been used as a tool to intimidate and polarize the society. Not a single day has passed since May 2014 when we are not witnessing efforts to vitiate the social fabric and justify the mob violence under various pretexts. The poisoning of young minds against the Muslims become essential when the Savarna dominance in our political cultural social life now stand widely challenged by the vast majority of Bahujans hence ways and means to polarize the people through false narratives and stories. Events in the last three years shows how the Sangh Parivar has been building narrative and churning stories about those who are violated while encouraging such elements unashamedly who have been accused. Their earlier moral high grounds have been exposed now when none of the BJP spokespersons have shown courage to speak up against such crime and 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 a member of your community is no guarantee for your protection. The Thakur girl who has been 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. It was a torture 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 the Sanghi Propaganda. They are charging that this girl has the habit of flirting and making false complaints. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister has no time and its police was still giving ‘deep’ respect to the Thakur MLA who exploited the girl to the maximum. It is not surprising therefore that his ‘ideal’ ‘wife’ has come out in support of him. This has happened many time when the women at home despite knowing the facts about their husband continue to support their husbands 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 surprise that the Hindutva trolls would be looking for similar cases where the culprits or accused are either Muslims or Dalits so that they can beat around the bush castigating the ‘libtards’ and ‘sickulars’ for their prejudiced behaviour. Their favourite devotees are trained in questioning the motive and giving the incident a communal colour so when Kathua happened then they would ask what about when the Muslims rapes Hindu girls? Well, it is important to finish this question once for all. We are against all forms of violence against any one at any level and rule of law as per norms defined and decided by international law mechanism, must be implemented. The lawyers who are hounding Ms Deepika Ranawat, the brave woman who decided to take up the case of Asifa has been threatened and boycotted by the Jammu Bar Association violating all norms and ethics that the noble legal profession claim to espouse for. 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 been violated by her own caste MLA 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 organizing ‘rasta roko’? Have we heard any award to protect the honor of this Unnao girl whose father have been brutally murdered by the Uttar Pradesh police.
It is not new thing. The same day yesterday, the rape charges against Swami Chinmayananda were withdrawn by the Uttar Pradesh government. When number of Babas got into sex scandal, the Sanghi campaigned that it was a ‘conspiracy’ against the Hindu religious leaders. Did we not know how the pregnant Muslim woman was brutalized in the street of Surat in the year 2000 during the Gujarat pogrom?
Daily we are getting horrific videos of women being paraded naked, being beaten up for some ‘fault’ or others. 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 Asifa was a crime against humanity but he and his party must not shy away taking actions against those who supported the Jammu Bandh. We would like to make it clear here that 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 Bharatiya Janta Party. We have not heard any expression of concern, condemnation and shock which is baffling.
Asifa was brutalized to throw her community of nomads from the land they graze and protected. 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 that the ‘Muslims of the valley think us tribal while the Hindus consider us Muslims’ but both of them looked down upon them. Having worked and known some of these nomadic communities, I can say that the caste Hindus looked 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 the indigenous population in that context 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. Asifa was a girl child and need all our sympathies. Unnao girl 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 honour of the girl and her family while in Kathua, the police did an exemplary work and prepared the chargesheet after much public pressure. What make the Kathua thing serious and absolutely condemnable that the way the entire Hindu community was made to come to the street to protest against the chargesheet. When we have court of law, cant we wait for some days and scrutinize the things 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 for the alleged charges of seditions. 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 organized 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 favourite games at the dead bodies of people.
We are with the family and community of Asifa and will stand with all those fighting for justice for her. We stand in solidarity with brave young woman from Unnao who dare to speak up against a feudal male chaunvinist which resulted in brutal death of her father by the Khaki goons. We hope India’s criminal justice system, its civil society and its public at large stand together and learn a few lessons from these gory incidents. History will not forgive us if we do not stand with truth and honour of two harmless persons whose body was violated by the religio-political goons because of their gender and religion. 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 it be able to do so ?