Contextualizing the politics of rape in Kashmir
The horrific and gruesome abduction, gang rape and murder of an 8 year old child in Kathua district of Jammu, didn’t seem to bother and catch attention in mainland India for three months. Maintaining the criminal silence for three months, paving way for cover up in highlighting the case raises many questions. Suddenly, now, after waking up from a deep slumber, Indian mainstream media and Indian public intellectuals, celebrities and civil society in general, started to pour an outrage against the horrific rape and murder of a child, condemning it and seeking justice for the victim. The social media sites, Facebook and Twitter are flooded with tweets containing hash tagged message #JusticeforAsifa. The condemnation has come from all circles, be it Bollywood actors, cricketers, musicians, journalists, political leaders and activists and many others. Congress President Rahul Gandhi led a midnight candlelight march to India Gate in India’s national capital to protest the Kathua rape case. Maneka Gandhi said that she intends to ask for the death penalty for those who rape children below 12 years of age.
The Kathua incident managed to reach international headlines, right after the crime branch submitted its report revealing a well-planned conspiracy to drive out nomadic Muslim community from the area. Intensity of public pressure had been such that Indian Prime Minister Mr Modi spoke about the issue too and thus he also came up with a lip service as well. But despite all this there are many questions that have remained unanswered. It confuses us that why it took three months to come up with a condemnation. Is it that we condemn selectively or is it that our condemnation is a politically motivated act. Is it that we are protesting because everyone is protesting and thus it’s a sort of social uprising gone viral and we too succumbed to the same, or if it is that we protest because we should do it on humanitarian grounds and because we stand for the social justice. Is it that three months ago we only knew that Asifa is a ‘socially backward’ bakerwal girl and therefore deserves no protest and lately we came to know that our political and ideological opponents are involved and therefore we joined the race to become part of selfie rallies and candle light marches to annihilate and overshadow our enemies. Or is it so that it took us enough time to come up with a thought about Asifa that she was a Muslim girl, and thereby naturally deserved less attention. There is a serious need to ponder upon the issue and some of them are enough good and deem answers.
However, there are other details that need a thought as well. Firstly, The two-ruling party MLAs marched in favour of rapists. Ruling party Leadership sent its ministers to Hindu Ekta Manch’s Kathua rally. Besides BJP Cabinet minister Lal Singh remarked, “so what if this girl has died, many girls die every day.” Man, who is at the forefront of protests and defending the rapist is allegedly reported to be an old congress hand. Why does a political party need to come up in open support of a criminal? Why the bar association who should have been at the forefront for deliverance of justice try to become a hurdle, barrier and obstacle in the development of this case. Therefore, it becomes imperative to investigate this case at much depth.
The truth is that Asifa’s case is much beyond the way it looks at the prima facie. The media, political and social organisations besides the civil society groups are trying to hide the real motive that led to death of this little Desdemona. Factors that led Asifa to suffer today, are a result of that crop of wild oats that have been sown in Jammu and Kashmir back in 1947 by Dogra government and which have been manured for long now by the central and state governments till day.
Rape as a crime in Jammu and Kashmir isn’t because of social crisis but is beyond that. Former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, in her address to the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995, called the use of “rape as a weapon of war in Jammu and Kashmir as reprehensible and depraved.” It is true that Rape, sexual humiliation and sexual torture in Jammu and Kashmir are most potent tools of repression. Cases of Sexualised violence in wars and conflict zones are neither incidental, nor are they simply “question of sex”. According to a 1993 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, the ‘security forces’ use rape as a method of retaliation against Kashmiri civilians during reprisal attacks after militant ambushes. Most rape cases, according to the same report, have occurred during cordon-and-search operations. According to a 1996 HRW report, security personnel in Kashmir have used rape as a counterinsurgency tactic. Scholar Inger Skhjelsbaek states that the pattern of rape in Kashmir is that soldiers enter the homes of civilians, kill or evict the men and then rape the women present there. Rape in Kashmir is a cultural weapon of war and the rape of Kashmiri women by Indian ‘security’ forces, in the context of a predominantly Hindu state repressing a Muslim minority population, functions as a tool of subordinating Kashmiri men and the Kashmiri community at large.
Asifa’s case therefore is to be taken into a broader perspective. On 10 August 1948, a report published in The Times, London says that for 5 days of 1947, “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated – unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border – by the forces of the Dogra State headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja’s accession to India.” Reportedly, because of the massacre/migration, Muslims who were a majority (61 per cent) in the Jammu region became a minority. A question then naturally arises, as to what overriding reasons or factors prompted and motivated Dogra ruler Hari Singh to mercilessly kill or cause to be killed his own faithful subject’s contrary to golden principles of ‘Raj Dharma’, to which he was supposed to have adhered to. All archival materials, recorded evidences and statement of eye-witnesses clearly establish beyond any doubt that massacre of Muslims in Jammu since 1947 has been a planned State affair. The Dogra ruler, having decided to accede to India much before the actual partition of sub-continent took place in August 1947 was, however circumspect because his State was an 80% Muslim Majority State. Muslims of Jammu, having more social and cultural affinity with Punjabi Muslims, were eager to join Pakistan as against the Valley Muslims politically ruled by Sheikh Abdullah who, admittedly was not favourably disposed towards Pakistan. It was therefore, militarily logical and politically feasible that the demographics of Jammu be changed to facilitate the entry of Indian army into the State without much resistance and to make the political rule that much easier.
The plan to change the demography and make Jammu a Hindu dominated region are the revealing factors that have led to death of this angel, besides the death of those millions who succumbed the genocide in 1947. The mainstream media houses are trying to connect Asifa’s case with that of Nirbhaya or another rape victim in Unnao. But it is better that we should not forget that Asifa is a victim of political conspiracy and Nirbhaya was a victim of social crisis. Asifa’s case is about the question of self determination of an international dispute. The media houses trying to hide the real motives of the molestation and death of Asifa and it is time to realise that we should not succumb to this fake drama of Indian media. Asifa is not a #DaughterOfIndia but is daughter of #Kashmir. If the Indian media is enough justice loving they should come up with their stand on the death of Desdemona’s like those of Nelofar and Asiya. Or for that matter daughters of Kashmir who became victim to the lust of criminal Indian armed forces in Kunan and Poshpora in Jammu and Kashmir.
Author is a student of Law at Department of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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