I know he tried, I heard him say out my name
I heard him repeat it loud
A six year old in a mountain village in Kashmir could well have written this before she died this January. Humanity is in pain. There is no religion, no country, no victory or no defeat. There is an excruciating gut wrenching pain, not of a boulder crashing through your innards, but of a sinking depression, plummeting through a tunnel of maniacal melancholy.
Like Asifa, our limbs do not move – both real and metaphorical. The muscles that give oxygen to the brain and the heart are in atrophy. To think that a 60-year-old and a teenager and six others, let humanity die, die as they conspired to repeatedly rape a 8-year-old girl in Khatua, or abetting it, not even sparing the destroyed and already dead child, save her last breaths, as one of them tried to rape her one time before killing her.
Every arm of a civil polity, including lawyers, fought to prevent justice to the victim. An FIR had to be registered against lawyers who attempted to prevent the police from filing a charge-sheet in the Kathua rape and murder case in Jammu, as the probe came close to a conclusion.
There is clever silence from those who cannot just give Justice to Asifa, but the freefall of humanity in of the oldest civilisations of the world, is stark.
The crime was planned by a former revenue officer who wanted to drive out her nomadic community of Bakerwals out of the Rassana area of Kathua. If this hate felt tale of innate cruelty can be reported in two paragraphs, read them, because it isn’t humanly possible to consume this tale of beastly madness beyond a few lines.
On January 10, the little girl in a purple dress, was grazing her horses near her one-room home when one of the accused, a 19-year-old, called her into the forest pretending to help look for a missing horse. The horse returned without her.
The police say the man dragged her to a small village temple and drugged her. For three days, the man and two others gang-raped her repeatedly, keeping her sedated and without food. Before she was strangled and hit twice with a heavy rock for good measure, one of the men stopped the killer to rape her one last time (Courtesy NDTV report).
And look who that man was who wanted to rape a dying child. Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria, according to the police charge-sheet. Words fail us.
A 19-year-old school dropout and a 60 something Sanji Ram who was in charge of the temple where police found forensic evidence are the two primary accused. The former revenue official allegedly planned the depraved crime and even kept aside a huge amount of money for bribes.
Those who have brutualised the Indian sense of civility (though that itself is in doubt) and humaneness need to be identified, but what happened in Unnao and Kathua in UP and J&K, two states far apart, is a result of what India of today has become. And it’s all very well to ask for politics not be played with the body of the dead and the raped. But how can the politics of those ministers of J&K who march with the Indian flag for “justice” for the rapists, be an insignificant nugget on this bloody sick landscape. It is the politics of it all, which is fuelling the poison which is unleashed, a poison which is killing little girls and tearing apart the will to live, for their families. It is the politics of its all, which forces the Prime Minister of what we call our country still, to say that daughters of our country will get justice. “Such crimes challenge the very concept of social justice and as a society and a country we all are ashamed of it. I want to assure the nation that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done. Our daughters will get justice,” he said.
These assurances have to be tested on the touchstone of merit with a dose of correct cynicism. Would the Prime Minister have spoken even these words, if this was 2014 and not 2018, a year before 2019?
Let us put this “justice to our daughter’s theory to test”. It’s been four years since a 6-year-old (yes) was raped in a school in Whitefield Bangalore, in July 2014. The IT city had never seen such public outrage on the streets. And what happened then? News Minute, a highly respected South India based news website, which has been following this case reports that the one man was arrested by the Bengaluru police. “The very next day, he was let off and the police called it a case of mistaken arrest. Two gym instructors at the school – Lalgiri and Waseem Pasha – were soon held. The Bangalore rural police filed a chargesheet in October 2014. It has been almost three years since the charge-sheet was filed, but there has been no conviction, even the trial has not commenced”.
News Minute reports that the survivor’s family has left town and quoting sources, states all three accused, Lalgiri, Waseem Pasha and Rustum Keravala are out on bail and at least one of them is believed to be out of Bangalore.
So let’s just rest this ‘justice for our daughters theory’ for now, shall we, and hope to be positively surprised if the victims of Unnao and Kathua get the semblance of justice from a nation whose very core is getting cruel and unfair.
In UP, the CBI arrested BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, accused of raping the 17-year-old Unnao girl, hours after the Allahabad High Court ordered his immediate arrest saying he was influencing the ‘law and order machinery’.
A police man in Kathua, an MLA in UP, lawyers siding with rapists in J&K. Has the executive, members of legislature and the members of the legal fraternity of this country conspired to rape the core of India’s values?
As a civilization, we need to question and look deep into this generation. And even the outrage industry for all the right reasons, cannot be operative only from the breaking of news to the staging of protests to the arrest of the accused. Justice is ensuring the complete extraction of those who brutalise the core of humanity, from society. But no one has the will or patience to run the long race.
And this is not happening because, while we need to ask core questions, we need to look at some ‘pore’ issues. And as the pores of the soul of society clog and decay, strong voices for justice are not sustained and then there’s a media which has cracks. As Shekhar Gupta, Editor in Chief, The Print, wrote in his column this Saturday ‘National Interest’, “There are a couple of strong negatives today. One, that the social contract we talked about is fraying, something I have fretted about in the past. The second that the media is now more divided. It always had divisions of ideologies and views—as it must in a decent democracy. Today, it is also divided on the basis of platforms. That provides the cracks in which a determined establishment can bury the hatchet. These are the cracks the government is probing by running a fine knife over them. The big blow will inevitably come, once they widen... (in) Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and Unnao in the heart of Uttar Pradesh... the arrogance of the political establishment in both places was blocking justice. It is mainly because of the stellar work done by the media, on all platforms, that turned the tide. When the chips are down, you need them all. There is no mainstream, downstream, slipstream distinction—or apartheid.”
Thus while there are cracks, there is still hope and that is what we must live with even as so much has died within us. It is that hope that Shekhar Gupta talks of, that forces frozen fingers, numb with pain, to forget and put aside all else, in the state and country to write this column, this Sunday.
Pressure of the people and the media is the only hope in the embers of destruction due to the ravaging fire of brutality spreading across this land.
It is when this hope survives, only then, that a little Asifa, will return home with the horses, to her Maai and Baba, in a mountain village in Kashmir.