Of Indian Media, Public Intelligentsia and Civil society
The Criminal Silence on Kathua Rape and Murder
The horrific and gruesome abduction, gang rape and murder of a 8 year old girl in Kathua district of Jammu, didn’t seem to bother the collective conscience of the mainland India. Maintaining criminal silence for three months, paving way for cover up and hushing up the details is what has largely been done and many questions remained unanswered.
All of a sudden, now, after waking up from a deep slumber, Indian mainstream national TV media in particular and Indian public intellectuals, public figures, celebrities and civil society in general, began showcasing an outrage condemning the unfortunate and brutal incident. Now all are seemingly seeking justice for the victim. The social media sites, twitter in particular, are flooded with tweets containing hash tag #JusticeforAsifa from Indian bollywood actors, cricketers, musicians, journalists, political leaders and activists and the list goes on.
The Kathua incident managed to reach international headlines, right after the crime branch submitted its report revealing a well-planned conspiracy to drive out nomadic (minority) Muslim community from the area. From National TV Channels in particular demanding justice for Asifa after the cover up of the incident for nearly three months to civil society in general who maintained criminal silence until now, started beating the drums and jumped of justice.
The question that could be asked is: how is it possible that all the mainstream TV channels remained unaware about such a grave incident and thereby skipped its coverage. What made them to change their hearts all of a sudden and they began to show outrage with such magnitude condemning the incident in the loudest manner possible?
Their conscience awakened in the backdrop of widespread media coverage given by international newspapers including prominent news organisations like The New York Times, The Washington Post, AP, BBC etc and others shaming and questioning Pro-Hindutva communal bigotry and bias, thereby, forcing it to change the line.
It is shocking that when the two ruling party MLA’s marched in favour of rapists, it didn’t catch the attention of the mainstream media in India. It was unfolding as might have been precisely choreographed when BJP leadership sent its ministers to Hindu Ekta Manch’s Kathua rally and BJP Cabinet minister Lal Singh’s remarked, “so what if this girl has died, many girls die every day” (Newslaundary, Apr, 12 2018).
Indian liberals equally maintained their silence, thereby helping in dumping the news story which could have otherwise highlighted this heinous and horrific crime against humanity much earlier. The person who is at the forefront of protests (Jammu Bar President) defending the rapists is an old congress hand (The Print, Apr, 12 2018). It took pseudo-secular and soft-hindutva main opposition party president Mr. Rahul Gandhi, three months to finally tweet and speak out on the issue, only after acting first voice from ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (minister) V.K Singh spoke out.
Here also Congress again tried to play a soft-hindutva card. It depicts the secular credentials of Indian National Congress and the like-minded people. All Indians must hang their heads in shame for waking up to a gruesome tragedy so late.
A report in The New York Times says: “It seemed another isolated, horrific episode of sexual violence in India, Hindu nationalists have turned it into a rallying cry — not calling for justice for Asifa, but rushing to the defense of the accused. All of the men arrested are Hindu, and Asifa’s nomadic people, the Bakarwals, are Muslim. This week, a mob of Hindu lawyers physically blocked police officers from entering a courthouse to file charges against the men. The officers retreated to a judge’s house later in the evening to complete the paperwork.”
The silence of Indian civil society is more disgusting and worrisome as it indicates the indifference not just to a particular region or community but to humanity in general.
Abrar Reyaz is a student of Law at Department of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir. [email protected]