SRINAGAR: After the state police’s Crime Branch revealed the gut-wrenching details of the most brutal kidnapping, gang rape and murder of the little Asifa, the Bakerwal girl who was hunting her horses in Hiranagar (Jammu), the world seems to have rediscovered her. From V K Singh to Rahul Gandhi, everybody is seeking justice, now. Even the celebrities and sportspersons have joined in. Condemnations are coming from offshore too.
“We have failed Asifa as humans,” V K Singh, a former General and a junior minister in Modi government tweeted. “But she will not be denied justice.”
Rahul Gandhi Reacts
But Rahul Gandhi, the Congress President has asked very uncomfortable questions about the heinous act. “What happened to Asifa at #Kathua is a crime against humanity. It cannot go unpunished. What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child?,” Gandhi tweeted in a mass shared tweet about the Rasana tragedy. “How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil?”
It was in reaction to Gandhi’s tweet that senior minister Naeem Akhter, who usually speaks for the government tweeted: “And the Congress fingerprint in the entire episode was always evident. @INCIndia officially supported the pro rapist Bandh. It’s spokesman Ravinder Sharma on record said so. Media picked it up late.”
Asifa was searching for horses when, as per the premeditated plan by a right-wing activist, she was kidnapped, held in a temple, drugged, gang-raped and eventually murdered. She was only eight years old. The motive was to scare away the Muslim Bakerwals away from the village extension, who were living on the lands they owned. The police, politics, lawyers and various government departments were in glove to ensure the real story remains buried.
The Crime Branch investigation undid the plan. Now the graphic details of the heinous crime offer a painful account of the level of inhumanity, some people can go. “@JmuKmrPolice Crime Branch has done a commendable job in investigating the unfortunate case of Asifa’s rape & murder,” State Police Chief S P Vaid tweeted. “JKP is a highly professional police force and I’m sure the law will take its due course and the culprits will be suitably punished for this heinous crime.”
The involvement of the two senior ministers of Mehbooba Mufti government indicted the larger plan that was linked to the gang-rape of a minor girl in a place of worship by the family of the person who was the custodian of the shrine. The demand was undiluted from Dr Jitendra Singh Rana, MoS in the Prime Minister Office (PMO) to Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga – the two ministers in Mehbooba’s cabinet, to the Sanji Ram on ground zero: hand over the case to the CBI.
What complicated the already serious crisis was the response that the lawyers in Kathua and Jammu did in two days. The day the CB sleuths came with the accused and the charge sheet, they were prevented from submitting it, twice. It took a long time for the cops to submit it later that night. On the next day, the Jammu Bar members came on streets to enforce the protest strike and implement it.
“We are the same people who did not allow @MehboobaMufti and Farooq Abdullah to leave the airport in 2009,” Bar Association, Bopinder Singh Saluthia, was quoted saying before he led his members to enforce the strike. “We will get weapons & bombs. If they have the courage to stop us, let them use police & CRPF to stop us,..”
The only exception that saved a bit of Jammu’s face was the decision of Jammu Chamber of Commerce that did not support the strike.
But the strike triggered a reaction. The family of the deceased girl have left their hutments and migrated. “It is normal for the Bakerwals to migrated as they stay in and around Jammu for not many months,” Talib Hussain, the lawyer who was initially arrested in the case, said. “But the only problem is that they have migrated slightly early.”
Talib said even he feels insecure. “I am told that the Sangh in Kathua has announced a reward of Rs 6 lakhs on my head,” Talib told Kashmir Life. “But I have no options. Right now I am trying to locate the family because their phone is switched off and they might have started their trek to the mountains. So I am going to locate them.”
Asked if he requires security, he refused. “It is very difficult for me to manage my two ends meal, what will I do with the security that I may get,” Talib said. “God is the saviour of all and I believe in God.”
Sack Ministers Demand
After the real story was revealed by the investigations, the uncomfortable questions are being asked. “Why? They aren’t his ministers, they are @MehboobaMufti’s ministers,” Omar Abdullah, the NC leader, reacted to a tweet suggesting Modi must sack the two ministers. “The power to sack them rests with her, a simple letter to HE Gov is all it takes.”
“Your cabinet colleagues from the BJP have supported the rapists, Mam. Have you asked them why or issued a show cause notice?,” journalist Harinder Baweja asked the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, when the latter tweeted: “The Law will not be obstructed by the irresponsible actions & statements of a group of people. Proper procedures are being followed, investigations are on the fast track & justice will be delivered. #JusticeForAsifa”
The tweet marked the beginning of a long trail of fierce reactions. “Is this really the kind of country we want to be known as to the world today??,” Sania Mirza tweeted. “If we can’t stand up now for this 8-year-old girl regardless of our gender, caste , colour or religion then we don’t stand for anything in this world..not even humanity..makes me sick to the stomach.”
“Imagine what goes through the mind of an 8 yr old as she is drugged, held captive, gang-raped over days and then murdered,” actor Farhan Akhter wrote. “If you don’t feel her terror, you are not human. If you don’t demand Asifa get justice, you belong to nothing.”
Will Mehbooba Mufti act against the two senior BJP ministers or not is a decision that she may have to take early. The two parties have been talking about the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle for a long time now. It was actually deferred last month if the political grapevine emanating from the corridors of powers is correct.
Shifting The Trial
But what is more important is that the various institutions of the system will have to seriously introspect if at all they can avoid politics. What has been the media doing in Jammu for all these months? Why there is not a single story that offers any detail about the families, their crisi8s and the tragedy? Why there are too many stories about the mechanisation of the Sanji Ram and co? After all, if the media sleeps over heinous crimes like this, it ceases to be what it claims. Engineer Rasheed is asking the question that why it took three months to speak on Asifa’s tragedy. This question is not for politicians alone.
Equally important is the requirement to re-examine the extent to which a society can go. This is fundamental to the creation of a benchmark for interaction. Already, the Bar’s actions have created a situation that the district bars in Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar have started distancing themselves from their agenda. This has already given the society a bad name though not everybody in Jammu stands for what Sanji Ram and Co have done.
Nobody across the state thinks that a fair trial is possible in Kathua. So many say, it is also not possible in Jammu. Now there are demands for a special court holding the trial of the case.
“The decision that the case cannot have a trial in Kathua is also known,” Talib Hussain, the lawyer, said. “There are threats to one of my lawyers as well. We are considering moving an application before the Supreme Court for transferring the trial of the case so that justice is done.”
Jammu, after all, is emerging more intolerant than it ever was? Or is it?