A group of women activists from Jammu and Kashmir has expressed anguish over the “unjustifiable delay” in the investigations and “excessive politicization and communalization” of the heinous rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakerwal girl in Rassana village in Kathua.
A statement issued by the women called upon all political groups to put an end to the “horrifying politicization and communalization” of the crime, and stop the “harassment to the family of a victim.
It also asked the government to ensure that investigations by the Crime Branch are fast-tracked and are fair to be followed by a fast track court trial.
“We are concerned over the excessive politicization and communalization of an incident which is clearly one of sexual exploitation, sexual brutality and murder,” the statement whose signatories include Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor Kashmir Times, Nighat Shafi Pandit, Founder-Chairperson of HELP Foundation, Neerja Mattoo, writer and educationist, Shehla Rashid Shora, former vice president JNU Students Union, Nitasha Kaul, Academic, writer and poet, Nyla Ali Khan, writer and visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma, said.
“We are also concerned by the brazen manner in which ultra-nationalistic discourse is being used to counter the campaigns for justice and shield the culprits,” the statement said.
The other signatories include Pawan Bali, senior journalist and film-maker; Mandeep Reen, advocate J&K High Court; Essar Batool, author and human rights activist; Mantasha Binti Rashid, scholar and Fulbright fellow; Marvi Slathia, research scholar at JNU; Nusrat Andrabi, educationist and retired college principal, Dr Syeda Afshana, columnist and faculty MERC, University of Kashmir; Ezabir Ali, women rights activist.
Asifa Bano’s body was found in the forests of Rassana on January 17, a week after she went missing. Her body bore torture marks and she had been raped before she was killed.
“It need not be elaborated that Asifa belonged to the marginalised and downtrodden nomadic tribe whose vulnerability and victimization is well recorded,” the statement said.
“Sequence of events shows that there has been a deliberate attempt by a section from within the government to thwart the process of investigations in the case, right from the time of her disappearance. News reports have pointed out the reluctance of the police to lodge a missing report and begin a manhunt to trace the girl. Even after her body was recovered, the necessary process of investigation including a collection of evidence and recording of statements was not adequately done. Instead, the family of the victim and those campaigning for justice have been constantly harassed and intimidated.”
Stating that any attempt to shift the case to any other investigating agency at this juncture would further hamper the investigations the statement added: “We fear that this may be done with a design to shield and protect the guilty.”
“Shockingly, the vested interests trying to sabotage the investigations through the communalization of the crime and its politicization do not only include a fringe right-wing group but also two sitting senior ministers in the PDP-BJP ruling alliance. Such a situation has further encouraged other political groups to counter the narrative not from the victim’s perspective but for petty political goals and for fueling the communal discourse,” the statement said.