22 September 2018 06:10 PM

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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 14 APRIL, 2018

When Kathua and Unnao Became Just ‘Incidents’

One of the several protests in Kashmir over past 3 months


NEW DELHI: It is not a good day for a country when its Prime Minister dismisses two heinous incidents of rape and murder as casual “incidents” being “discussed since the past two days.” The two incidents that he did not describe or directly refer to can be presumed to be that of little 8 year old girl, abducted, raped and tortured before being killed and the other young Unnao girl who tried to kill herself for justice, and ended up with brutally beaten and dead father instead. And the ‘discussion’ referred to must be the protests across India with the people's anger being felt.

“Incidents being discussed since past two days cannot be part of a civilised society. As a country, as a society we all are ashamed of it. I want to assure the country that no culprit will be spared, complete justice will be done. Our daughters will definitely get justice," PM Modi said during the inauguration of a Dr Ambedkar National Memorial at New Delhi.

“Incidents”. Really? Nothing more, probably far less. As the PM then went on to generalise “when a daughter comes home late, we're quick to ask them where they have been. But when a son returns late at night, we should ask them the same question.” that had nothing to do with the two gruesome incidents. And then,”we have to strengthen our family system, our social values and law and order.” Not clear whether he was referring to the victims or the rapists here.

Look at what PM Modi dismissed as incidents:

1. A girl raped by a BJP legislator Kuldeep Sengar in Unnao a year ago. Under tremendous pressure from home and society, and clearly unable to bear it any longer, the 17 year old decides to make yet another bid for justice. This time outside the Chief Minister and the police refusing to lift a little finger for justice, she goes to Lucknow for justice and failing this tries to commit suicide outside the residence of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Her father is then attacked by the legislators brother and other men said to be BJP workers in Unnao, beaten mercilessly in police custody, and dies shortly after. The girl with her weeping mother beside her said that after this they have been facing threats and being terrorised on a daily basis. And that the family is virtually under ‘house arrest.’

Sengar met Adityanath after this incident. And for days remained free to roam around, giving bytes to television channels. After an uproar in civil society, his brother was reluctantly picked up for the murder. After the controversy refused to settle Sengar was named finally in the rape case. And now he has been arrested after every effort was made by the BJP government in UP---and one can safely presume the centre---to protect him.

2. A tribal child had it much worse. She was abducted, raped, tortured by a BJP affiliated man in a temple. Policemen and others joined in. Her body was discarded after a week by the rapists in the forests. Her bereaved family was threatened, and abused to a point where they could not bury her in their own village, and finally had to flee their home for safety. The intention behind this rape was communal, to use it to terrify the Bakarwal tribe and prevent them from coming down to the lower areas dominated in that part by the majority community. If this was not enough two ministers of the BJP wing of the government in Jammu and Kashmir along with the Kathua legislator led a procession replete with the national flag supporting the rapists. They made provocative speeches inciting violence against the nomads. This is on video. The ‘incident’ attracted no remedial action from the BJP, not a word of condemnation but only aggressive support even as Kashmir Valley erupted in protests. Not a word from Delhi, not a word from Srinagar except from the PDP that had the sense to realise that this “incident” had become the proverbial last straw for the people.

There was not a word from the PM whose Office controls Jammu and Kashmir with an iron hand. As sources in the state have pointed before and again, nothing moves in the state without a green signal from the PMO with a clear cut strategy being followed by the BJP/RSS for the border state. The BJP continued to defend the rape and the murder with lawyers, many of them known ruling party members, blocking the court just a few days ago to prevent the police from filing the chargesheet against the rape accused.

India was initially silent, digesting Unnao and Kathua and waiting for action. But the chargesheet that detailed the rape---horrific details---and the larger conspiracy suddenly punctured the silence and a shout of protest could be heard across the country. This finally elicited a reaction, as little 8 year old girl melted the anger and the hostility that systematic propaganda had created against Kashmir. And the BJP and the government was made to realise by the people of India, cutting across gender, caste, creed, community, class that the propaganda of hate and divisiveness had not worked to a point where rapists and killers had been allowed space to create havoc for not just a family but for the country as a whole.

PM Modi thus, was left with little choice but to distance his party and government from the crimes. But did so in a manner that has raised questions and generated anger. His refusal to even refer to the two “incidents”, not even to the villages or towns or states confounds. His dismissal of the two horrible crimes as “incidents” has gone virtually unnoticed even by major Opposition parties but is being roundly attacked by the more discerning on the social media. And his refusal to specifically identify “justice” in these cases keeps the question marks hovering over the larger attempt to cover up the crimes, despite the arrests and resignations at the moment.

Of course ‘we’ are all ashamed but the government is expected to act. To assure the people not of the action it is going to take.

The PM of India was expected to speak of the rape and the murders that have the people out on the streets; to name and shame those involved; to promise action specific to them; and to announce not just compensation but the dignified rehabilitation of the two families who have been completely terrorised, one into becoming a prisoner in their own home and the other into fleeing the home they had known and loved.

No Sir, these are not ‘incidents’ but heinous crimes reflecting a powerplay that will need much more than one indifferent sentence to heal.

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