“If he is hanged, we will find a little solace,” says the father of a 3-year-old girl child, who was abducted and raped on May 8 in Sumbal area of Bandipora district in Kashmir. He says the family learnt about the incident during iftar.
Narrating the incident, the child’s father told Newsclick, “At the time of iftar, as we were preparing to break our fast, I asked my wife about our daughter. She said the child might be playing outside. I went outside but she was not there, after which my wife and I searched for her in the entire village. While we were searching, a local said he had heard cries from the nearby middle school and that we should check. We rushed to the middle school, following the cries, and reached the toilet to find that our child was lying on the floor and her trouser was pulled down.”
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The father said as they reached the spot, the rapist started running and he went after him.
“When we reached, the boy was present there. He ran after seeing us and I asked my wife to take care of our daughter while I ran to catch him. Our daughter was in the most vulnerable condition. Chewing gums and a shampoo packet was on the floor,” he said.
It was learnt that the victim was lured with chewing gums, following which she was abducted and then raped.
The family told Newsclick that they demand the strictest punishment to the boy who raped their little child.
The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police have arrested the accused, who hails from the same area as the victim.
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Protests, Shutdown In Valley
The heinous crime has triggered protests across the valley with protesters demanding stringent punishment.
The protestors called for hanging the culprit in public so that such an incident was not repeated in the future.
Meanwhile, the valley on May 13 observed a complete shutdown following a call by Ittehadul Muslimeen against the incident. Shops and other business establishments were closed while public transport remained off the road.
In the afternoon, clashes between security forces and protestors erupted across the valley. As the protests intensified, police used tear gas shells and pellets to disperse the protestors, leaving several injured. The clashes continued for several hours.
The clashes were the worst in several areas of North Kashmir, including Kupwara, Sopore, Pattan Chanabal, Mirgund, Hygam, Sumbal, Utter Kreeri, Baramulla.
In Srinagar’s Press Enclave, a number of religious groups, student groups, and activist groups staged protests against the incident throughout the day.
The protesters were carrying banners and placards reading “Hang the culprit”, “End rape culture” and “Girls are not toys”.
A woman protester, Shabnum from Srinagar, said, “A little angel has been ravaged by a beast. Same thing can happen with me tomorrow. When will our consciousness awaken? It is the battle of every woman in Kashmir. We want the government to hang the culprit so that such things do not happen again in the future.”
To pacify the protesters, divisional commissioner Baseer Khan said, “First, I appeal to everyone to maintain peace and harmony. They should trust the administration and the police. We are already investigating the matter on priority. Justice will be delivered and the accused brought to book. We have instructions from the Governor that the case shall be dealt on a fast-track basis. We are monitoring the developments round the clock. An SIT (Special Investigation Team) has already been formed and the matter will be resolved in a time-bound manner. We will try to deliver on a war footing.”
Another protestor, requesting anonymity, said, “We are demanding justice against this inhuman act. Such incidents are increasing are happening globally. Especially, given that we are a Muslim society, such incidents should not happen here. With every passing day, our consciousness is degrading. We demand that politicians and state leaders should come forward and take harsh action against this culprit.”
Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani called such incidents “a black stain on our social fabric and rich culture.”
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Meanwhile, the incident has reignited the debate around rape in the valley. Essar Batool, human rights activist and co-author of Kunan Poshpora, told Newsclick, “The Bandipora rape case is not shocking. We have had such incidents happening for long, it’s just that these are being reported now. It’s high time that we have open conversations about these issues.”
“Ending sexual violence against women is not an overnight phenomenon, it’s part of the patriarchal structure of a society that treats women as object sans any agency. In Kashmir, where sexual violence is used by the state forces as a weapon, it becomes important to resist both state violence and cases like these where civilians are involved. Such cases need to be tried in fast-track courts, but at the same time, we as a society need massive reforms in how we address women. It would also require the educational institutions and the religious institutions to change the narrative from male-centric to women-centric.”