The Horrific Kathua Rape Makes Me Ashamed of My Jammu Roots
I am appalled at the communalisation and politicisation of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in my hometown.
Dear Jammu, I am ashamed of being your daughter.
Ashamed that you, my people, hid and tortured an eight-year-old girl, inside my place of worship, and brutally killed her to drive her community, the nomadic Bakarwal tribe, out.
I am ashamed that you, my people took out rallies defending those rapist-murderers and used the name of my country in support of those bastards.
Yes, I am from Jammu. But before that, I am a woman. And even before that, I am a human. How dare you, Hindu Ekta Manch, take out a rally using my national flag to defend the alleged rapists?
The girl was eight. I cannot stop thinking of her haunting eyes, that had to witness our society’s sickening bigotry in her final moments, all on her own. Eyes, that the media should not have revealed, but were revealed to us nonetheless.
My gut wrenches every time I try to picturise how that "chirping bird" who ran like a "deer”, was chained with a drawstring and tortured in Kathua, my father’s ancestral home.
The eight-year-old’s face – those big, twinkling eyes, and that sharp nose – remind me of my childhood Bakarwali girlfriends. Growing up in Jammu, we would laugh at the same things, complain about the same teachers, share tiffins with each other and share our woes over complex subjects. Life was less hateful back then.
It’s not like bigotry didn’t exist at all in my childhood. “They (Bakarwals) are dirty people”, we were told. “Stay away from them”. That’s the thing about bigotry. It is like a wound. It festers in our homes, schools, communities if left unattended.
When and why did the Bakarwals become such a thorn in our eyes – I wondered as I read the gory details of this case – that those men didn’t flinch while repeatedly raping her and hitting her head with a stone, hatching a full-blown conspiracy only to “dislodge” a group of Bakarwal Muslim nomads from a village.
Lawyers obstructing justice. Police officers as accused. Politicians continuing their dirty politics. So called Hindu-nationalists adding a communal colour to the incident. How dare these people divide my state, as if it wasn’t divided enough already? I am simply ashamed of the many institutions of my state that collectively failed the child, that little, innocent girl.
And you, lawyers of the Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHCBA), did your sense not prevail when you threatened Deepika Singh Rajawat, the lawyer of the victim, against taking the case, and warning her with dire consequences?
Yes, this is an emotional reaction. Because I cannot act rationally, when I am faced with something that has shaken my conscience. And no, I will not hide behind tame words that do not offend anyone. This is personal. Because it deeply affects two parts of my identity. Of being a Jammu Dogra and a woman.
I can already hear my detractors attacking me for my ‘selective outrage’, or on my ‘silence’ on crimes against Kashmiri Pandit women. To them, I would like to say, that I have no interest in your whataboutery. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And comparing two rapes don’t result in a rape-free environment.
I believe that it’s far more noble to admit the truth, rather than be complicit in a crime.
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