Wrapping up Kathua Rape in Tri-colour

Written by Sabrangindia Staff | Published on: February 21, 2018
When Asifa Bano, a Bakerwal girl merely eight years of age, left her home at Rassana in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir to graze horses on the afternoon of January 10, 2018, no one expected her to not come back. Though her family lodged a complaint a day after she went missing, the police could not locate her for a week, until the time her disfigured and decomposed body was found. The little girl had been raped and then murdered.

kathua Rape
Image Courtesy: https://www.dailyo.in

As if the shock of her death was not enough, one was left bewildered when a joint rally by Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM) and BJP was taken out on February 14 demanding the release of SPO Deepak Khajuria, who was arrested in connection with her abduction, rape and murder. The case has witnessed some important twists which are telling of the majoritarian mind-set and state favouritism.

It came to light that even after 48 hours of Asifa’s death, no police investigation had taken place. Not only did the police delay investigations, they were also unable to find her body, which was later found in the nearby Rassana forest by locals. Two days later, the police arrested a minor boy, claiming that he had held Bano hostage in a cattle shed in Rassana village and strangled her when she resisted rape. This was utterly unbelievable, as also claimed by Asifa’s family members who believed that it was not possible for such a young boy to keep her hostage on his own for so long. The family believed that some others were definitely involved.

The Crime Branch (CB), which was ordered to conduct an inquiry along with a magisterial inquiry, because of the rising pressure, arrested the Special Police Officer (SPO) Deepak Khajuria on February 9. In what can be considered a true travesty of justice, Deepak Khajuria was part of the group conducting search operations for Asifa. By February 16, another SPO Surinder Kumar was arrested. Notably, both the SPOs belonged to the majoritarian Hindu community in the area in which 90% of the land is owned by Hindus while Asifa belonged to the Muslim nomadic Gujjar family.

This led to an odd protest organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM), which made demands that they didn’t want the perpetrators of rape to go unpunished but at the same time, they didn’t want their men to get ‘falsely implicated’. National Flag was waved in the protest to show support for the accused. “We are protesting because an injustice is being done by the government. And this is being done because our area, the area of Kathua, is inhabited by nationalist people. So the attempt is to subdue us”, said BJP’s district president for Kathua PN Dogra during the protest. He added, “The fault of the accused (Khajuria) is that he was trying to push back against anti-national elements and those shouting pro-Pakistan slogans. It is part of jihad.” Ironically, Vijay Sharma, the state secretary of BJP, defended February 14 protest rally making a preposterous statement that the HEM had been formed in January to “defend people from police harassment”.

Though the Additional General of Police for Crime Branch, Alok Puri said, “The evidence against the SPO, Deepak Khajuria (28), is solid, and medical evidence shows that victim had been raped before murder”, still the atrocious rally was allowed to carry on. This can be only attributed to the bias of the state towards the majority community as well as political support of BJP.

The communalization of the rape of a minor, the lackadaisical attitude of the police in carrying investigations, the threats faced by the Bakerwal community in the area and the stiff resistance by political parties to the arrests of the accused, are all symptoms of a decaying and morally corrupt society where even civil society is not shaken yet at such a ghastly crime.