• What Does it Mean for Indian Democracy When the Police Has to Appoint Investigating Officers From a “Third” Religion

    Seema Mustafa

    April 13, 2018

    Image Courtesy: Greater Kashmir

    What does it mean for a democratic nation when rape is justified? And rapists protected, first by mobs that march in their support, and then by the administration that refuses or unable to take action? And then to cut through the absence of trust and communalisation a state police has to bring in officers from a ‘third’ religion to investigate a rape.

    It means that the nation is being taken by those who rule it towards a pit where there is no law, where hate and divisiveness prevails, and where women are used as property as they were by warring armies in the medieval ages. It means, in short that democracy is in deep danger. And if those in power are not made to act, we could be witnessing the final end of Indian democracy as we knew it. Regardless of a state election won or lost.

    The message from Kathua—ever since the tortured and raped body of little Asifa was recovered— is to convert the barbaric crime into a show case of communalism. Indian democracy can only hang her head in shame when a police force has to suggest that officers from a third religion—in this case Sikhs—be appoiinted to investigate a rape case. This shows how deep communalism has permeated Jammu and Kashmir, with the political parties fanning the fires to a point where trust and confidence has been completely shattered. And a police force is not being trusted to do its duty by either side. How pathetic, shameful, and dangerous is this. A precedent that cuts into all that India stands for, the very idea of India itself.

    One would have thought that the Opposition parties would be on the roads to protest against the BJPs silence, and in Jammu and Kashmir, and in Uttar Pradesh deep complicity in these crimes. And carry out a strong counter campaign to restore communal harmony by doing little more than demanding, and ensuring justice.The secular voice could have cut into the polarised voices from Jammu and Kashmir, besides demonstrating a national concern about an incident that was intended to have a larger dimension than even rape.

    But forget the Opposition even the larger women organisations who are not completely extinct, as their presence in protests on Delhi rapes has demonstrated in the recent past, have not bothered to raise a voice for the girls who were killed and raped, for the father who was beaten to death for protesting, and for the people who have been placed at the far end of the polarised stick wondering where the law has disappeared to. There has been no effort at all to puncture the silence, and the divide.

    Look at Kathua. And the brutality that is so sickening that the stomach churns. A tiny little girl , eight years old, was doing what she did every day. Going out to graze her family’s horses, with her parents secure about her safety. Asifa did not return. No one listened to the parents when they tried to file a complaint. Well, her body was found in the forest a week later. And from then on the tale unfolding is of such inhuman conduct, of such barbarity that it defies human imagination. Of the gang rape, of the policeman who wanted to rape her yet again “just once” before she was killed, of the terrible torture with the injuries all over her tiny body testifying to it… words cannot express the horror that Asifa went through. And what her family now is reliving over and over again.

    At a time when the entire nation should have risen to pressure the government to act, to arrest the rapists, to “hang” them as was demanded for the rapists of the Delhi girl in the bus, there was silence. Not a word from Delhi or the media for that matter, that let go of the news almost immediately after it made the news. The only noise that was heard was from a mob that marched carrying the national flag of India, to support the rapists. To insist that the cops arrested at the time be released. And leading this mob were important BJP legislators. Who are still at large. And are being looked upon as heroes, along with all those crowding the social media for the alleged rapists and killers.

    If this was not enough those entrusted to fight for justice, lawyers came out to block access to the Special Investigation Team of the state Crime Branch to the courts and prevent them from filing the chargesheet against the alleged rapists. That the lawyers succeeded is in itself a message for the poor of Jammu and Kashmir, and indeed for democratic India. The message that with brute force law itself can be relegated to the bins, a show of muscle power clearly supported by the state.

    For when the state does not support it, it resorts to action as can be seen on a daily basis in Jammu and Kashmir where daily civilians along with soldiers and militants are now being killed. Or can be seen even on the streets of Delhi when a peaceful crowd of students protesting for justice and rights are attacked with water canons and lathis, and girl students assaulted. No such action here, instead the SIT team representing the state was compelled to turn back, and return at some other point to file the chargesheet.

    With the decision to bring in Sikh officers the Jammu and Kashmir government has conceded defeat. And bowed before the communal aggression whereby even the rape and torture of a 8 year old has been turned into a communal condition, with the intiial objective being realised even more than the perpetrators had hoped for. Not only have the nomadic tribes got the message, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has become the first in India to legitimise communalism by bringing in Sikh investigators, as against Hindu and Muslim.

    Take Unnao. A young girl is raped. And she names the BJP MLA and his people. She is just 16 years old. So traumatised and so desperate when her plea to be heard is ignored by the machinery of the state, that she goes to the residence of the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and tries to commit suicide. She does not stir the government that has decided to support its own, but does get the media to notice her and write about the incident that had otherwise been covered completely. This was more than the BJP in the state could bear, and her poor, weak father was caught by the legislators brother and his goons, and beaten so brutally that he died. A video has now surfaced that shows the beaten man stating very clearly that the brother of rape accused, MLA Kuldip Singh Sengar had done this.

    The hue and cry is such now that the brother has been arrested–for now at least— but Sengar who is accused of the rape remains scot free after meeting Adityanath. Besides the poverty stricken family is being terrorised as media reports indicate, with the entire village now under pressure. Instead of justice, those who complain of rape involving a BJP leader or supporter,will themselves become the hounded is the clear message from Unnao and UP. Not only will justice not be done, but they themselves beaten and killed, and the survivors terrorised, fearful of their safety every living moment.

    Just as the message from Kathua is to showcase a religious divide, of rape acquiring highly communal colours. Indian democracy can only hang her head in shame when a police force has to suggest that officers from a third religion—in this case Sikhs—be appointed to investigate a rape case. This shows how deep communalism has gone in Jammu and Kashmir, with the political parties fanning the fires to a point where trust and confidence has been completely shattered. And a police force is not being trusted to do its duty by either side. How pathetic, shameful, and dangerous is this.

    Yes Indian democracy is in deep danger. When her girls are attacked and the assailants protected. When her women are assaulted and raped as political tools to teach the ‘other’ (in the case of Kathua the nomadic tribes) a lesson, that they should not wander into lands that are now not their own. When the poor are denied justice and instead killed when they speak too much. When the state moves to protect the guilty because of political affiliations and uses all possible clout and organisations —even the lawyers —to obstruct and deny justice. When the message is sent out that no one is safe unless he or she is part of a political block, with the worst kind of crime imaginable allowed for those who are either part of the ‘other’ created systematically to fan the flames of hatred; or who dare protest. When rape is justified, and the accused treated as heroes.


     

    First published in The Citizen.

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