When Asifa was raped and murdered everyone thought that the judicial system would ensure that justice is served, Lawyers would be representing the accused and not help the guilty roam free. But the last few days have shown the worst of this profession.
Eight men, including four police officers and a juvenile, has been suspected of repeatedly raping, drugging and finally battering to death with a stone an 8-year-old whom they confined for days in a temple. The police officers involved also tried to destroy the evidence by washing girl’s clothes.
When police tried to file the charge sheet in Crime Branch, members of Kathua’s Magistrate’s Court Bar Association blocked the entrance to branch and protested against the seven accused being charge-sheeted for the rape and murder. With many Lawyers and two ministers from BJP in attendance, the protest wound through the town with the national flags and the slogans such as ‘Jai Shri Ram.’ Chargesheet was accepted after High court intervened, also FIR was registered against the members of Bar Association.
Matters turned worse when Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association called for a strike on Thursday to protest not the actions of their colleagues but the action taken by police against these lawyers. Though in Ex-Captian Harish Uppal v Union of India, the Supreme Court (2003) 2 SSC 45 it is held that lawyers cannot go on a strike and even if, lawyers have to go on strike, they cannot go on a strike to try and pervert the course of justice.
According to the charge sheet (now filed), Asifa was drugged and raped repeatedly inside a temple in Rasana Village of Kathua district. It is a Hindu majority district where nomads have lived in peace for decades. The body of the girl was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area. Chargesheet also mentioned that one of the rapists was called from Meerut to “satisfy his lust.” All this was done to dislodge a group of Bakarwal Muslim nomads from the village, the charge sheet said.
According to the status report, the juvenile’s relative who is a retired revenue official was the “main conspirator.” Other than the juvenile, the J&K crime branch has arrested Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, and SPO Surinder Kumar. Head Constable Tilak Raj of Hira Nagar police station was also arrested on the charges of destroying the evidence.
Khajuria, a police officer who allegedly abducted, raped and killed the victim, had been claimed as a member of Hindu Ekta Manch. After his arrest, Manch protested for the release of the arrested persons. Later the protestors changed their demand and sought a CBI inquiry after severe criticism from various sectors.
This incident brought to light the gruesome communal divide in Crown of India. Due to increasing communal tensions, family members of rape and murder victim have abandoned their home now. The only reason one could find justifiable for widespread support received by accused could be that the majority of people in Kathua and the accused are Hindu whereas the girl was Muslim.
Nirupama Menon Rao said that India must eventually become an apartheid state, a Hindu Rashtra where the Hindus have the first claim to everything. sometimes rapes are so gruesome that they call for the automatic death sentence for the rapist but BJP has not only remained silent about Asifa’s gruesome end, it has also supported the alleged rapists and murderers.
And all the while this was going opposition parties, television’s talking heads and shouting heads ignored every move towards a new red line. On India’s normally angry, heaving streets, where thousands once raged against the rape of a young woman called Nirbhaya, “India’s daughter”, all was at peace. For some reason, the 8-year-old did not become the ‘India’s Daughter.’
Why did it take almost three months to make this tragedy a “national” prime time issue? Is it that the girl’s life in Kathua matters less because it is not a big city or a part of national capital?
The Kathrua rape is a national shame. It shows that women are not safe, not even an 8-year-old. She didn’t take an empty bus, or a watch a movie late at night or wear revealing clothes. While we came together after 2012 Delhi gangrape putting powerful people to task and questioning our authorities, what’s stopping us now? It’s time to put our collective consciousness and demand justice for yet another ‘India’s daughter.’