JUST a few days ago entire Pakistan was gripped with fear of the most heinous crime unthinkable. Zainab’s parents happily off for Umrah never realized that their trip would end in an unthinkable ordeal. Pakistan was put to trial and amidst the conspiracies the rapist, Ali Naqshbandi, was put on death row in a swift manner. The debate in Pakistan centred around whether following Iran’s precedent he should have a public execution or not. In short the horror of Zainab was such that no one could think that anything worse could ever happen. Mere nine days later the horrors were unfortunately quadrupled as 8-year-old Asifa Bano was brutally raped and murdered.
Udhampur, Jammu Kashmir has a community of Nomads mostly Muslims, Bakarwals. Sanji Ram along with his juvenile nephew kidnapped Asifa and kept her in a culvert near a temple in the Kathu district for four days. She was kept sedated and raped. But before she was strangulated and killed by hitting a stone on her head Deepak Khajuria, a special police officer, raped her as well. The family kept on looking for the girl but the thought of checking the temple never crossed them. It would have been like thousands of cases before it, three months later two cases suddenly woke up India. So far this year till March 2018 according to Kashmir Media Service there have been 15 cases of rape reported. Asifa’s case is brutal because the heinous crime was covered up and the accused tried their best to turn into some form of victims by the Bakarwal community. A police officer by the name of SI Anand Dutta as per Times of India was bribed by Ram for a meagre sum of Rs.1.5 Lac to settle the investigation in his favour. All this happened because Ram was avenging the alleged beating up of the boy. The boy worked at the temple where Asifa was taken. The accused are willing to take a lie detector test to prove their innocence. Hindu groups are backing the accused and the lawyer representing Asifa is getting threatened.
Asifa’s case raises several questions about Indians and human rights, a self-proclaimed secular state that is defending rapists. Females are not safe in India. With global “me too” hashtag making rounds. The situation is weird around the world but the fact that the official machinery is suppressing victims in their families threatening prosecuting lawyers. Muslims and their rights are in a completely different state of affairs. Are there glass ceilings? well a Muslim President may seem to prove otherwise but ground realities are different. Muslims all over India are dissatisfied and afraid especially with the extremist tendencies the Indian society as a whole display by electing people like Nerendre Modi and Yogi Adityanath for CM of one of densely populated Muslims states. Adityanath is very well known for demeaning Muslim heritage and Mughal rule and by proclaiming that it doesn’t represent Indian culture. There is a gradual shift in the Indian history books as well, all Muslims and Non-Fundamentalists are losing importance and it seems that a bunch of Hindus built India with their own hands.
Kashmir needs freedom and no matter how much love Mr Modi declares for his “Kashmiri” brothers. The situation in the Valley is not improving. Resorting to holocaust like tactics of eliminating Muslims and driving them out of the valley is not working, it never has worked for more than 70 years. The world is quiet. Zainab got more coverage perhaps thanks to our own media but Asifa is just another number in the many horrors that are arising out of the valley. Each day people are losing their lives to ask for a fundamental human right. United States, Europe all feel that the counter to Russia lies within the subcontinent; we were never a choice hence Indians can do no wrong. There is a limit to the tolerance of the common people and there comes a time when they are forced to stand up. Asifa has enabled that in the common Indians who see themselves and their children in the case. For the first time the Modi regime has had to take a step back. The society has to realize the epidemic that grips them. Perhaps the people of Kashmir will one day also see a day where their problems will be solved in a similar manner.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Peshawar.