It was sad to read about the death and alleged rape of the eight year girl in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Losing a child is painful, this way even more. For this author the rape of a child is a heinous crime, for which there can be no rationale or justfication, whatever sense of injustice one may feel.
The past affects the present, more so in J&K where past wounds are yet to heal. Hence it is important to do a quick recap of events post the Pandit exodus of 1990.
In 1990 Kashmiri Pandits were, in the Valley, raped and killed. To hear Pandits speak of the nightmare see NDTV India program The state, esp. the Valley, has gone through periods of great turmoil and intermittent peace. According to ‘South Asian Terrorism Portal’ fatalities in terrorist violence during 1988-2018 were 44,599. 2
The state was ruled by Sunni Muslims, notably Abdullah and Mufti dynasties for most of the time when not under Governor’s rule.
It is an acknowledged fact that Kashmir Valley is favoured by successive State/Central governments and dominates government expenditure/jobs. The people of Jammu and Ladakh regions have been complaining of neglect and marginalization for decades.
The state has a unique constitution. To vote in state polls one has to be a ‘Permanent Resident’ (PR) as defined under the constitution of J&K. For ‘Who is a Permanent Resident.’
At the same time Refugees from West Pakistan, essentially members of backward classes, have not been made PR of J&K so they cannot vote in state polls, own immovable property in the state, be employed by the State Government etc. To know how these refugees are suffering refer 4. But, see how law is now twisted to accommodate Rohingya Muslims, 90% of them in Jammu.
In the last assembly elections, BJP won 25 seats from Jammu region and PDP 28 from Valley. They formed a coalition government in 2015.
Huma (name changed) belonged to the nomadic community Bakerwals.
For such tribes Ghulam Nabi Azad passed the amended Roshni Act that was earlier enacted by Farooq Abdullah in 2001. The Jammu & Kashmir High Court stayed implementation of this Act.
Realizing that the order made Hindus and Sikhs insecure, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said, “The directive (of tribal affairs department) must be withdrawn”. The Times of India April 15.
By asking the police not to arrest bovine smugglers, the border could become similar to West Bengal’s border with Bangladesh where smuggling is rampant.
Question is why are Hindus and Sikhs feeling insecure?
Having cleansed the Valley of Kashmiri Pandits and creation of Sidhraa, Bathindi and Narwal areas outside Jammu occupied by Kashmiri Muslims, the Hindu and Sikh minority is very sensitive to any attempt to change demographics? See table below.
Between 2001 and 2011 difference in increase in population of Kashmir and Jammu was 4%. However, between 2002 and 2014 the number of voters in Kashmir increased by 5.67 lakhs but was 1.4 lakhs in Jammu. This steep increase in number of voters has raised eyebrows. To read ‘Truth behind Census 2011 numbers’.
Given the above, illegal Rohingyas and Bangladeshis around Jammu and the tribal notification giving illegal protection to Gujjars and Bakerwals from eviction and encroachment, have forced people of Jammu to protest.
For anyone to suggest that this therefore justifies the rape —–is abhorrent.
With this background here is a quick snapshot of events.
Huma’s (name changed) went missing on January 10. Her body was recovered from the forests near Rassana village on January 17. Her death made national headlines nearly three months later.
According to a January 19 report in Greaterkashmir.com a fifteen year old boy was arrested for murdering Huma, a crime he confessed to. Minister for Revenue & Parliamentary Affairs, Abdul Rehman Veeri is quoted in the report as saying that he kidnapped the girl, put her in a nearby cowshed at village Rassana where he attempted to rape her and when she resisted, he killed her by way of strangulation.
Supreme Court transferred Kathua case to Pathankot
In January, Asifa Bano, an 8-year-old girl was allegedly raped and killed in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. It was said that this incident allegedly took place inside a temple. However Jammu Bar Association called for strike alleging that Dogras of J&K in Hiranagar were being targeted in the probe by the crime branch. The bar association demand for a CBI probe into the matter which was turned down by the Mufti government. However local people were also protesting on this matter and they allegedly said that there is a deliberate conspiracy to defame Hindus by dragging temple into the matter.
According to report, J&K Crime Branch had filed two separate chargesheets in the brutal rape case of eight-year-old. One chargesheet had been filed against seven of the eight accused, while a separate chargesheet was filed against one of accused who is allegedly a minor.
“The seven accused are 60-year-old Sanji Ram, Special Police Officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tilak Raj, civilian Parvesh Kumar and Sanji’s minor son Vishala,” police said.
The father of the eight-year-old Kathua victim had approached the Supreme Court seeking transfer of the case outside Jammu and Kashmir. The victim’s father told that his family was facing criticism and threats to life following the arrests. Kathua-based lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat, representing the family of an eight-year-old girl, alleged that she was also facing threat to her life for pursuing the matter.
The Supreme Court on may 7 transferred the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab. The apex court, however, avoid handing over the probe to CBI, saying there was no need to do so, as the investigation had been conducted and the chargesheet was filed.
The father of the eight-year-old girl who was raped and killed in Kathua welcomed the court’s decision to transfer the case to Pathankot, and said he had full faith in the judiciary.
Reacting to the apex court’s decision, Deepika Singh Rawat, who is representing the victim, said, “We are hoping for a fair trial now.”
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti noted the decision to hand the case over to the CBI “will go a long way” in boosting the morale of the state police. She also lauded the police for leaving “no stone unturned” to ensure justice for the victim’s family.
Earlier, the chief minister had said that there was “absolutely no need for a CBI inquiry “into the case, adding that “if you don’t trust J&K Police, there is no one left to be trusted in the state”.
According to a report of The Indian Express, family members of Sanji Ram, the prime accused in the case, who were on hunger strike at Kootah Morh on the Jammu-Kathua National Highway, were shocked by the Supreme Court’s decision to shift this case to Pathankot. “On whom shall we have faith,” was the first reaction of the accused’s wife and daughters when they heard the court’s order.
Advocate Ankur Sharma, who is defending the eight accused arrested by the Crime Branch, said, “We will file a fresh writ petition in the Supreme Court for a CBI probe in a few days. The CBI demand has not been rejected by Supreme Court. Only the case has been fast-tracked (to be heard on a day-to-day basis) and transferred to Pathankot.”
The J&K state BJP expressed displeasure over the Supreme Court’s decision and noted that it was a setback to the state government as well as the civil society. On this issue BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi said that shifting the trial to Pathankot “will give a wrong impression about Jammu and Kashmir”.
“It is not only a setback to the state government, which had assured all security for a free and fair trial in the state itself, but also the civil society here, as shifting the case to Pathankot means there was no confidence even in them,” Sethi said.
Uday India Bureau
What about the investigation?
A respected paper of Jammu, The Daily Excelsior, wrote in a April 15 editorial, “After initial cover up by local police when social media of Kashmir took the issue in big way to project it as hate crime to divide society, the Govt meekly surrendered and directed constitution of SIT by Crime Branch and then persons put in the team fully exposed what was the desire— to appease media and separatists in Kashmir. Prominent amongst members of SIT is a police officer who was involved in raping a girl of minority community and killing her brother in custody in Thathri about a decade back. Crime Branch team coming and harassing the whole village led to mass unrest in people and they demanded that investigation should be done fairly.”
“None defended the culprits though. Demand of impartial investigation gathered momentum and overnight civil society constituted team named Hindu Ekta Manch which put demand for CBI enquiry instead of Crime Branch for whom there was large scale mistrust.”
Well known activist Sushil Pandit wrote in the Sunday Guardian, “Barely a week into the case, the investigation is taken away from the SHO Hiranagar, Suresh Gautam. A Special Investigation Team is constituted under Additional SP Adil of Samba. Barely 10 days into the investigation, this team is relieved of the case. Now the case is handed over to the Crime Branch to investigate.”
“Despite changing the investigation team thrice, the State has not been able to establish a case that can stand in court.” Since people do not trust the state police they have asked for a CBI probe.
According to a February 28 report, “15 Hindu families from Rassana village in Jammu’s Kathua district decided to flee their homes on Tuesday, over allegations the Jammu and Kashmir police’s crime department was harassing and torturing their children.”
What did the Chief Minister do?
The Daily Excelsior editorial said, “Matter was taken to Chief Minister but she never wanted to annoy her core constituency, so she shot down the proposal. In the meanwhile sensing reaction of people, Crime Branch got petition filed by victim’s family before High Court for monitoring so as to block the Government from referring the matter to CBI.”
To jog your memory earlier two Shopian Women who accidentally fell into river were declared rape victims of Indian Security forces. A subsequent CBI enquiry revealed that the Medical report was fabricated by doctor in cahoots with separatist leader to intensify anti India protests.
What happens if separatists and anti-India forces occupy border areas?
When security forces deal with cross-border firing or terrorists they know local population is on their side. If not they will face in Jammu what they are facing in the Valley today. Fight the enemy in front, be attacked by stone pelters from behind.
Read ‘Stone pelters thwart army operations, allow militants to slip away’.A BSF officer, now retired, last posted in the area spoke on the condition of anonymity, “There is a lot of resentment among the locals against the Bakarwal/Gujjar settlements which has more or less become permanent. Secondly, they are better represented politically and that makes them more assertive. In the past also they have raked up minor issues out of proportion.”He added that the area could become a nightmare for security forces because “Already madrasas are cropping up for nomadic people and students are also coming from Valley, that too in the heart of Hindu majority villages.”
A separatist friendly border population might also encourage smuggling of drugs into Jammu. These would be used to lure Jammu youth and ruin their lives just as we have seen in Punjab for years.
Today, the threat to J&K is as much from within as it is from Pakistan.Another matter of national interest was coverage of Huma’s case in the media. It might make a reader believe it was India’s first rape just like post Godhra riots were portrayed as India’s first riot.
The questions that emerge are –
- Why did the alleged rape make national headlines nearly three months later?
- Have rapes involving other communities made similar national headlines. Taking question two, did these rapes in Assam and Kerala make national headlines?
- Assam September 2014: A boy introduced himself as Rahul Das, actually Fakhruddin Ali, raped a girl with seven of his friends.
- Assam March 2018: A 13 year old girl was gang-raped and subsequently set on fire by a group of criminals led by Zakir Hussain. The girl later died of severe burns.
- Kerala March 2017: “Father Robin, Vicar of St Sebastian’s Church in Kottiyoor Kannur district, was arrested for allegedly raping a 16-year-old last year”.
- Kerala 2008: Father Thomas Kottoor is the main culprit behind controversial Abhaya Rape cum Murder Case.
Did those who protested at Mumbai’s Carter road last Sunday, including Aamir Khan’s wife, protest when these rapes happened or when Kashmiri watchman Sajjad Pathan raped and murdered Pallavi Purkayastha, a Mumbai based lawyer in 2012.
During NDA 1 Hindus were blamed for rape of nuns in Jhabua Madhya Pradesh. When the country’s home minister released the list of criminals 12 of the accused were Christians. 8
For decades, there is a sinister attempt to show the Hindu community in bad light whilst covering misdeeds of others.
The BJP government has once again failed to communicate its point of view effectively.
The confused messaging on filing of FIR against an Army Major and wanting the coalition to continue at any cost give an impression, even if not intended, that BJP believes the only way to peace in J&K is by appeasing the Valley.
The BJP must realize that the overwhelming mandate in 2014 was to correct civilizational distortions, change the narrative and not focus on development alone.
(The author, a political analyst, runs eSamskriti, an online portal of indian culture)
By Sanjeev Nayyar