Recently in a party, I got into a conversation about political parties and religion. A Sangh follower argued how Muslims “deserve” to be oppressed because:
1) They want to make India an Islamic country, hence they make a lot of babies
2) One Muslim is weak. Two is a party. Three+ is a threat to Hindus living in that area.
3) “Thoda bhi liberty dete hai toh woh sar pe chadhke nachenge. (They will dance on our heads if we give them a little bit of liberty) They had a choice to go to Pakistan during partition, they decided to stay back. Now they must live by ‘our’ (Hindu) rules.”
4) “You are too young to make an opinion. We have seen their atrocities with our eyes. Woh toh Modi ne aake sabko theek kia hai (Modi has made them straight now)”
This is not the first time I have heard this. This is not the first time I failed to end the conversation with empathy and facts. These are some commonly stated statements propagated by a typical communal agenda.
An 8-year-old girl, Asifa, from a nomadic Muslim tribe was kidnapped, kept hostage at a temple 70 km from Jammu. The chargesheet, filed by the Crime Branch of J&K police, says that the 8-year-old was not fed for the four days that she was kept captive. She was put on sedatives while she was raped by three men. The drugs ensured she would not cry out loud, not even when she was strangled. The documents say all this happened under the watch of the temple custodian Sanji Ram. His own son, Vishal, his nephew (a juvenile) and a special police officer, Deepak Khajuria, are also accused of raping her and are among the 8 men who were arrested by Crime Branch. Asifa was herding horses forests of Rasana when she was lured away by the juvenile. A week later, her mutilated body was found among bushes in Rasana.
This was not a criminal act alone. The motive was to further what many political parties, civil society groups and lawyers in Jammu have been demanding for long that nomads and Gujjars, who are Muslims. The Crime Branch’s investigations have established that the atrocities against Asifa were meant to strike fear among nomads and Bakarwals, who count for about less than 8 percent of the population in and around Jammu, and drive them out of the area.
Asifa represents the Unwanted – A poor, marginalized, girl child
Know that we lost #Asifa and a father demanding justice for his daughter in Unnau (U.P.) to this deeply ingrained communal hatred and gender vulnerability in the heads significant population of the country. The political power and the very comfort to abuse it.
The tribes’ demand for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in Jammu and Kashmir, would give them rights to use forest land has been stonewalled by the BJP because its supporters hold that the Gujjars are encroachers. It’s because of this reason of land and demography of its occupants that the hatred against nomads and Gujjars is running deep. Daily harassment, attacks and burning their settlements of huts known as “Kullas” is routine. (source)
Don’t make this about Religion or Politics – Why not?
Nazir Masoodi, NDTV’s Srinagar Bureau Chief shares on his blog:
“After the horrendous murder, what was more shocking that an entire village colluded to disallow her burial in a small plot of land owned by her father. The Hindus didn’t want a graveyard to come up in Rasana village. The little coffin was carried far away. Her body had to be buried several kilometres deep in the forest.
Among the policemen who were sent to search for the child, after her father filed a police complaint about her kidnapping, was her alleged tormentor and rapist Deepak Khajuria. He even harassed and beat nomads visiting Rasana to offer their condolences to the family.
Spearheading a brazen campaign against investigations was an organization called the Hindu Ekta Manch. Sanji Ram (the father of accused) was the key driver behind protests against Crime Branch investigations. I met him on March 3, during a bandh in Kathua in defense of the accused. Sanji Ram relayed confidence as he told me that he’s “also fighting for justice but the Crime Branch is only arresting innocent people.”
The group was supported by people from all political and social groups in Jammu including the BJP and Congress. They marched with the tricolour in their hands. They wanted an investigative agency of their choice. A CBI inquiry. Dr Jitendra Singh, the local MP who is a minister in the Prime Minister’s office, did not condemn the crime. He was the first senior leader to support the Hindu Ekta Manch.
Besides MLAs, two senior BJP ministers, Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended rallies in support of the accused. They even warned the police against arresting any person in the case. Video of their speeches inciting crowd against the Crime Branch have gone viral. Will they ever face any action? In 2016, Lal Singh had threatened a delegation of Gujjars with “Have you forgotten 1947?”, a reference to the massacre of Muslims in Jammu.
Anyone who spoke for the 8-year-old was declared as a Pakistani agent and conspirator to upset Jammu’s “peaceful” atmosphere. Nomads demanding justice were beaten and injured by the police; the same police was escorting pro-rape rallies.
It’s a case where different arms of the government and political groups colluded to subvert the investigation. Police station Hiranagr which initially investigated the case destroyed crucial evidence. The child’s blood-soaked clothes were washed before they were sent to a forensic lab. Two officials including a Sub-Inspector have also been charge-sheeted for the destruction of evidence.
At every hearing, the Crime Branch submitted a status report of its investigations and based on the available evidence, the High Court ordered the arrest of accused. But despite the court-monitored probe, lawyers and political parties opposed it ardently.
The lawyers even blocked the court and prevented the Crime Branch from filing the charge-sheet on Monday. Finally, when investigators managed to enter the court, the magistrate was reluctant to accept the charge-sheet. It took them six hours and intervention from the highest levels of the government and the court for the charge-sheet to finally be accepted.”‘
So, yes. Let’s not make it about religion and politics. Don’t let them incite us. Don’t let them divide us. But please, question them and call them out.
Deafening Silence From The Noisemakers
On social media, you will STILL find people who are supporting this heinous crime because “thoda dara dhamka ke control mein rakhna padta hai Mohammedans ko”. In political leadership, you will STILL find otherwise very outspoke people, who have yet not spoken a word condemning this.
India wears it’s ugliest face of divide today. We are divided by religion, castes, and sub-castes among religion. We are divided by our preference of political leaders and parties.We are divided by gender. We are divided by class, money, and intellect.
Monkeys and The Cats
Now, do you remember the story we were taught in the school where a Monkey a takes the cake while the two cats fight over it? We are the cats and monkey(s) is you know who.
Please, please do not let this vulnerability of ours be an advantage to radical monkeys. I may not know of various dynamics, but the least I know is:
- To question them. We pay them, treat them as employees. Love them but get them to work. Fire them if they don’t. Just do not settle for this because there is no better alternative.
- To redirect your outrage to the right people. Politics nahi samajh aata? News mein interest nahi hai? Toh bhi theek hai. Smart ones will correct us, be open and receptive to that. But do not not educate yourself and speak because you are afraid to be shut down. Do not be afraid to speak out.
- The power of protests – Show them that we are together. We are together to call out their abuse of power that WE gave them. We are together, and enough, to take it back. We are beyond communal hatred they tell us exists. Together.
- To remember these times next year when we go out to vote.
And for once, just once, let’s not fight among ourselves. Let’s share and relish our own cake.
Cover Source: Ketna Patel
*Update – PM of India, Narendra Modi, finally spoke up.
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