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Why Communalize the Murder and Rape of Minor in Kathua?

Umer Beigh |
Is raping a minor girl not a crime anymore for the Hindu Ekta Manch, since she was a Muslim?

Newsclick Image by Nitesh Kumar

Members of right-wing group Hindu Ekta Manch recently carried a protest rally against the arrest of Special Police Officers Deepak Khujaria and Surinder Kumar by Crime Branch, for their involvement in the rape and murder case of the minor girl in Kathua’s Hira Nagar.

Vijay Sharma, a BJP leader and the organizer of the rally, threatened that if the state’s Crime Branch continued to “frame and harass” its members they would “disturb the situation” in the province.

“We demand that the case should be inquired by CBI as we have lost faith in the Jammu Kashmir police probe. The accused have been pressurized and tortured in custody,” one of the leaders of the outfit, claimed.

A number of people, including women, took to the streets brandishing national flag and marched from Ghagwal to Harinagar raising slogans in support of the officers.

Not long ago, in December, there was a similar march by right-winger across Rajasthan’s Rajsamand and Udaipur district who protested against the arrest of Shambulal Raigar, the one who burnt 45-year-old labourer Mohammad Afrazul in a horrific manner.

Unlike in Rajasthan, where rightwing protests manifested into violence, the Jammu Hindu Ekta Manch protest rally dispersed ‘peacefully’. Nonetheless, the protest has hurt the sentiments of people in the state.

“By this act of utmost shamelessness, these (fascists) have clearly shown that for their religious fantasy they can stoop to any low because honor and dignity of women folk and life of a human holds no value to them,” an amalgam of resistance leaders (JRL) in Kashmir, stated in a statement.

Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti also tweeted on February 15, that she felt appalled by the marches and protests in defence of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. She also was horrified by protesters use of our national flag in these demonstrations, “this is nothing short of desecration," she said.

Meanwhile, many others in Kashmir region showed disgust over why there was no debate in noisy news channels over this protest rally and why no anchor was fuming with anger. “Does the protest look so normal to them or is raping a minor girl not a crime for the Hindu Ekta Manch, since she is Muslim?” one local from Srinagar, questioned.

Kathua: ‘Rape’ and Murder Case

Eight-year-old girl belonged to a shepherd Bakerwal family who had recently migrated to Kathua from Kargil. On January 10, she went missing and her body was found a week later lying in the nearby forest of Ranjana.

Her parents said that the girl has been reportedly raped and murdered. “She had torture marks (electric shocks) all over her body and her hips were broken,” they added.

One police officer told a Srinagar-based newspaper that “the accused initially administered her with a locally available intoxicant. Later they gave her diazepam regularly so that she wouldn’t scream for help and catch the attention of the passersby.”

While responding about the protest rally Sameer Bhat, an editor at Gulf News said, “ideally in any civilized place such a heinous crime should shatter the community as a whole: a little child abducted, raped and then savagely killed; her body tossed out as if it were a tattered doll in disuse. And finally, after a wild goose-chase, when the alleged perpetrator is apprehended, a Hindu outfit comes to his rescue, with some BJP (dude), and a smattering of loud women, leading a march in support. Even if the killer were Muslim, nobody has the right to take out a rally to defend a rapist.”

Living in ‘Fear’

There have been different attacks on Gujjar and Bakerwal community in the past by the gau-rakshaks. In April 2017, one family was attacked in Reasi district where five persons were injured, including an old man and a child.

The motive of this rape-murder case as police investigations, however, was to instil fear among Bakerwal community who had previously expressed their dissatisfaction with the Hindu community. Days after the incident was reported, both Hindu and Bakerwal community intensely protested against the police investigation that compelled the state government to order the magisterial probe and handover the case to the State Crime Branch.

In the initial police investigation, one 15-year-old juvenile, involved in the crime, was also detained. Special Police Officer, Surinder Kumar’s involvement, however, is being ascertained. Alok Puri, Additional Director General of Police, Jammu range told NDTV that “the officer Deepak Khujaria raped and murdered the minor after taking her captive for a week.”

According to members of Bakarwals community living in Rasana and Kootah, with the arrest of the officer in connection with the crime, living in the area has become difficult for them. “They (officers) have the backing of Sangh Parivar”, one nomad told the Srinagar-based newspaper.

Reports further suggest that Bakerwals are being barred from village wells, ponds, and water tanks as the Hindu villagers’ fear that these nomads who arrive here every winter might take over their lands. “The anti-social elements have cut off drinking water supply to the Muslims living in the area. The water supply should be immediately restored”, National Conference’s Mendhar parliament representative, Javed Rana said on February 1.

The incident comes amidst the growing mistrust between Hindu villagers and Bakerwals and has raised many questions over the role of Jammu-based media and the BJP involvement, which as per reports, “preferred silence”. The murder and alleged rape case of minor saw media glare only when Kashmir-based newspaper gave the incident some coverage.

As observers suggest, the Jammu province has a strong presence of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which has foisted a communal identity within its Hindu masses. Over the recent years, such an identity has only grown in the region. During the Amarnath Land Controversy of 2008, the “economic and highway blockage” that was supposed to be a counter reactionary movement led by Jammu Praja Parishad has only worsened the situation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.

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