Of all living creatures, human beings must be the most barbaric and cruel. The eight-year-old Bakerwal girl’s gruesome rape and murder in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, on 10 January 2018, once again confirms this.
What further proves that we humans have indeed stooped to new lows is the mad search for videos on a porn website using the Kathua rape victim’s name, soon after the tragic incident came to light.
No actual videos of the rape were posted on XVideos.com, but the fact that the deceased child’s name was the top trend on the porn site, shows the depravity of some internet-users.
Sadly, this depravity is not shocking. Several porn sites are known to advertise ‘sex with underage girls’ and ‘rape of children,’ which is ironic in itself, as any act of sex with a girl below 18 years of age constitutes rape under Indian law. The ones who watch these videos and fetishize young girls are (mostly) part of mainstream society. And perhaps these are the same people who would actually rape a child, given the opportunity.
An adult woman’s rape is no longer ‘news’ — that is how rampant, and therefore commonplace, this crime has become. ‘Gangrape’ and ‘child rape’ today adorn front pages of newspapers. Not a day goes by when a woman or child isn’t raped. Our patriarchal society has only helped — both consciously and subconsciously — propagate rape culture.
Therefore, we, in a way, have perhaps even ‘accepted’ child rape as not something out of the ordinary. Thousands of brothels around the country that are running unchecked are further propagating rape, especially the rape of minors.
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The tremendous demand for children at these brothels is what has allowed child trafficking to continue unabated.
No Country for Our Children
In some parts of the subcontinent, the condemnable practice of child marriage continues in the name of ‘tradition’, which has further allowed for several minor girls to be raped. Nowhere are children truly safe — neither within the home, nor outside. We have truly failed as a society to keep our children safe.
Because children are soft targets, hyper masculine, patriarchal men find it easy to unleash their misogynistic masculine barbarity upon them, thereby validating their own fragile masculinity.
We don’t know yet what really happened to the eight-year-old Bakerwal girl in Kathua that fateful day. The reasons being cited across the spectrum are mostly political. Among the various ‘reasons’ for the rape and murder doing the rounds are: ‘the child wasn’t raped’; ‘the Rohingyas have raped her’; ‘the crime is a result of the chief minister’s conspiracy’.
Some have even claimed that the child was raped and killed because she was Muslim; the Kashmiri Hindus / Pandits in J&K are believed to loathe the Muslim community and allegedly want to drive them out of the region.
A Rape Victim Is a Pawn in the Game of Politics
In Bangladesh, I have witnessed Muslims, who have wanted to drive Hindus out of an area, looting and plundering Hindu homes, snatching away their land and threatening to kill them. Muslims do rape Hindu women and girls, though seldom — some rapes are for the sake of committing a rape, some rapes are to invoke fear within a community.
But when a Hindu girl is raped by a Muslim, it is not common for a Hindu family to abandon their area and move elsewhere. The likely reason being that many Hindus believe that Muslim men rape even their own women, so it would only be ‘natural’ for them to rape a girl, who happened to be a Hindu.
I firmly believe that when only political reasons are cited for rape, then the bigger problems of patriarchy, misogyny or toxic masculinity get clouded. Since it is being widely-claimed that Hindutva followers are allegedly behind the Kathua rape and murder case, those against Hindutva are likely to shout from the rooftops and gain political mileage.
Similarly, when members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) commit rapes, the opposition uses it to their advantage to criticise, and ultimately weaken the concerned political party. In this manner, the victim of a rape becomes a pawn in these political games.
Coming back to the Kathua incident, if the Hindus really wanted to drive out the Bakerwal Muslims, a more effective means would have perhaps been to loot them, destroy their land and homes, capture their cattle, torture them, or even kill them. After all, even Muslim society is patriarchal, and the death of a daughter is probably less significant than the loss of a son.
There are several examples from the recent past to depict the ‘Hindutva hatred’ of Muslims. Be it ‘ghar wapsi’, the beef ban, lynching in the name of gau raksha, or even ‘love jihad’ — are these not enough to prove that Hindutva is truly anti-Muslim?
Then why must we conflate the rape and murder of a little girl with these communal issues?
Even if political motivation was not the original intent behind the Kathua incident, the political motivations of the rape apologists are certainly clear. Those who have been making threats of death and rape to the victim’s lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat, are also politically motivated.
By Politicising Rape We are Ignoring Big Picture
All said and done, I truly believe that rape is not a political act. By calling a rape ‘political’ or ‘politically motivated,’ we are, in reality, legitimising rape — because the minute something takes on a political colour, it becomes easier to accept.
If the fight against gender violence is not fought against the problem itself, but rather, as a war against a certain political faction, then certainly, political mileage will be achieved, but the real problem of violence against women will not be resolved.
While there are thousands who are supporting the rapists in the Kathua incident, there are lakhs who are against the perpetrators, fighting for justice. Ramesh Kumar Jalla, the police officer who led the investigation in the case is a Hindu. Deepika Singh Rajawat, the victim’s lawyer, is also Hindu.
Most of the protesters against this heinous crime are Hindus. Seeing so many people come out in support of the Bakerwal community and, in particular, the rape-murder victim’s family makes me believe that not all hope is lost.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
The winds of despair haven’t yet snuffed out the light of humanity; compassion certainly outweighs depravity in our world. I also believe we are largely more secular and accepting as a people than communal and bigoted.
One day, we will rise above our differences and not be identified by our religion.
One day, our women will gain their rightful place in a society that will wipe out patriarchy and become inclusive and egalitarian.
You and I may not live to see that day, but at least we will die with the hope that our future generations will build the society we had dreamed of.
For live updates on the Kathua rape and murder case, click here.
(This article has been translated from Bangla by Indira Basu. You can read the original article here)
(The author is a feminist Bangladeshi author and former physician with Swedish citizenship who has been living in exile since 1994. She can be reached @taslimanasreen. Views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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