For the past month, as a part of their annual winter migration, Yousuf and his wife- the parents of the gruesome Kathua rape and murder victim- have been trekking downhill, to the plains in the Jammu region, with their livestock to reach their home in Rasana village of Kathua district where they will be living for the next six months. However, 45 kms short of their destination to Kathua, in the Nandini forest in Samba, the family has stopped and are apprehensive of proceeding further.
It has been 10 months since the rape and murder of the minor Bakarwal girl took place in Kathua and since, then the family has been lamenting the loss while being anxious of their future in Jammu. Talking to Newsclick, Yousuf said, “We are planning to delay our journey because we are scared thinking of what will happen once we reach the village. The thought of the rape and murder has dominated our lives.” Beyond the apprehensions about their security, Yousuf also thinks that the villagers won’t let them work - they won’t sell them leaves and won’t allow water for their livestocks.
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“We might get to our house in Rasana. But we have been informed by the people that the villagers are conspiring to make our living difficult. We won’t get leaves for animals and if they won’t let us work then we would have to leave. What can we do?” added Yousuf. Lamenting the fact that they have not been able to keep in touch with the villagers, he said, “Earlier, we used to call locals in the village to ask about the condition of our house and they used to help us. But this time, they have been avoiding us.”
In Kathua, the family owns a pucca house where they were living at the time of the brutal rape and murder of their minor daughter took place. The family says that this is the first time when they are thinking twice before returning home.
Case exploited for vested interests?
The family also expressed their disappointment with the activists and politics, saying, “We feel that we are being used for their vested interests. Nobody is seriously working for us, they are simply exploiting us. We have been disappointed again and again but we still believe that the government and court will make sure that we get justice.”
Speaking with Newsclick, Mubeen Farooqi, the lawyer in the Kathua rape case said, “The family felt exploited by the politicians. But as they started trekking downhill another fear has taken hold, of what lies ahead. Their fear is unavoidable, especially if the way this case took shape and the polarisation that followed is taken in to account.”
About the case, Farooqi said, “We will be closing our evidences in November. Then the other side will come with their defence. Largely, I believe the case has been stretched for longer than needed. The judgement of the case will have a huge impact. We know that we will win.”
The Bakarwal family has delayed their return and have rented out a piece of land in Samba for sometime. “We will be here for the next 20 days and we will see if it is right for us to return to our homes. This year is already a tough year because of less leaves in the forests and the villagers are also not cooperating. We are figuring out what to do next. Do we deserve this for no fault of ours?” said Yousuf.
The family have decided to wait for other community members to join in before proceeding on their journey to Kathua. “We won’t go alone, otherwise we will not go at all. We are waiting for other people of our community to join in. We would go with them. We will also insist that a few of them stay with us till we feel that we are safe. My land is there, we don’t know what to do,” said Yousuf.
Also Read: Kathua Case: A Communal Crime, Now a Communal Trial?