It’s a season of kitschy symbolism in Bollywood with celebrities after celebrities, including Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureshi, Gul Panag, Vishal Dadlani, Badshah, and Radhika Apte, among others, posting their pictures with placards that says “I am ashamed”, and demanding justice for an 8-year old girl who was “Gangraped, Murdered in Devisthaan Temple, Kathua”. The wordings, style, tonality and content of the placards being the same through all the celebrities.
The trend is not limited to the Bollywood alone; most of the celebrities from different walks of life have been pronouncing the arrested people as ‘rapists’ and the temple as the ‘scene of crime’. Adding the prefix “alleged” or using the word “suspect” has gone out of fashion in the new secular consciousness.
The purpose of the above act of the Bollywood celebrities is noble and the symbolism isn’t lost on anyone. Yet, the choice of words and the absence of sensibilities are appalling. It betrays not only a lack of research on the subject but also a fanatic avidity to pass judgment on blinkered notions. This is bigotry of another kind where a hearsay verdict is to be hurriedly delivered on the basis of one-sided accounts. No counter-view is to be entertained even for the sake of balance, let alone for the sake of justice. Like media, sensationalism is what Bollywood always looks for.
It’s important to find out who’s behind this orchestrated campaign that passes judgment on a place of worship even without a trial, and defames it without any consideration of the basic principles of natural justice?
Let’s try to understand the complex social-demographical reality of Kathua, which goes to explain the contextuality of the episode and its fallout.
Kathua – or for that matter, whole of Jammu, Udhampur, Samba etc – has become an unfortunate battleground of a desperate social and demographic strife where constant grabbing (and also, purchasing) of forest lands by the Gujjar-Bakkarwal settlers and the PDP government’s alleged support to it, has created a deep suspicion in the minds of the majority Hindu communities who believe that the PDP government is trying to change the demographic character of the Hindu dominated Jammu, as the settlers are all Muslims.
This, together with thousands of Rohingyas settling in Jammu regions with covert support of J&K government, is a thorn in the flesh of the psyche of the local people. The active connivance of the local government is apparent from the fact that most of the Rohingya settlers today have Adhar cards and ration cards in their names and even some of them have been issued the Permanent Resident Certificate or PRC, as per a reportage by Swati Goel Sharma in Swarajyamag.com. We all know that it is impossible to have a PRC issued for any of us! The report further revealed that Rohingyas have set up a bustling market, known as ‘Burmi’ Bazar, with shops better organized than those of the locals in the Bhatindi town. One of the settlers has purchased a palatial house costing Rs 2 crores on the outskirts of Bhatindi! It can’t be possible without active connivance of the government.
So, close on the heels of Rohingya settlement all across Jammu regions, the Gujjar-Bakherwal settlement has come up as a big issue, which is tormenting the local Hindus. These nomads, constituting 11% of the state’s population, are all Muslims, but they have been given the status of ST. Though the Bakkerwal community is largely peaceful, the Rohingyas are perennial troublemakers, who remain indulged in various crimes. One day a group of Rohingyas publically slaughtered a pregnant cow and butchered the calf also outside their settlement near Sunjwan military camp area leading to anger among the locals. So, communal tensions are rising because of these settlers.
In such situation, it is widely believed that the much talked about project of ‘Islamisation’ of the Jammu region has taken off and such events as this are parts of such plans. Terrorists like Jakir Musa and Lashkar operatives have already vowed to obliterate the “Cow worshipping Hindus” from Jammu as they same have already been driven away from the valley.
Further, the Rohingyas are believed to have close ties with ISI. ‘Al muhammed al arakaani’, a terrorist gunned down by army in the south Kashmir, was a Rohingya from Rakhyne in Burma. No one knows how many of them are having direct linkages with the ISI. It’s a well-known fact that ISI is constantly evolving ideas to create disturbances for the Hindus in the area. The Rohingyas have once again come up under scanner for their role in providing support to the militants in the recent attack on army camp in Sunjwan, where 5 soldiers were martyred.
In the given scenario, the apprehension of ISI playing on this communal tension in the region by hatching a plot to get the girl killed involving the Rohingyas and planting it on a temple to defame the Hindus, needs to be ruled out. The Rohingya are a handy tool to be used for such acts. Various reports have appeared in the media that tells of the presence of Rohingya in the Rasana village area, where the girl was killed.
The circumstantial evidences of the murder create suspicion in the J&K government’s chargesheet, which has been prepared by a SIT drawing police officials with dubious records. Using a temple for such a heinous act, and that too by an old man in mid-sixties, and that again for 7 days – all create ample suspicions. The locals say that the ‘Devisthaan’ is a small prayerhall with doors from three sides which can be opened through multiple keys available with many people, apart from the owner and hence it is pretty impossible to keep somebody locked and sedated for 7 days in the Devisthaan; it has been further argued that the temple was regularly being visited by the devotees all throughout the period due to the festival of makarsankranti at the time of the alleged incident.
None of us, including the Bollywood celebrities, know what’s the reality. Then what’s the hurry to jump the gun and to declare some body a culprit and drag a temple in the act even without a trial? Hasn’t the Bollywood erred in pronouncing the Devisthaan to be a scene of crime even without an investigation? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to be patient in passing a verdict until the matter was investigated in a free, fair and impartial manner?
Even more atrocious is the attempt to portray the local Kathua demonstrators as rape apologists. They’re not. They’re equally horrified by the crime. They’re saying the same thing that the celebrities are saying – hold a fair investigation, a fair trial and give harshest possible punishment to the culprits, and for that, a CBI enquiry is needed to find out who the culprits really are! This is indeed required because the J&K police, like the state police elsewhere, is known for its pliability, inefficiency and corruption and for its biases against Hindus, as is obvious by their series of actions, including helping Rohingya in settling down in Jammu regions.
There are many facts that raise suspicion about the incident. Recovery of the body from a distant cattle shed instead of the temple, presence of mud in the tuft of the girl’s hair and recovery of just one strand of hair (the whole temple theory rests on this single strand of hair) in the temple despite eight days of the claimed torture, are some of the facts that point to a deeper conspiracy.
The SIT constituted by the Mehbooba government has itself come under the cloud of suspicion as one of the policeman in the SIT, Irfan Wani, had himself been charged of rape and murder of a Hindu girl, though later he was acquitted. So, the J&K police chargesheet implicating a 65 year old man and his son, his nephew and 4 other policemen even though the body was never seen by anyone in the temple, is a cause of doubt. It appears that the government is trying to shield someone by implicating some others. Incidentally, Sanjhi Ram, the main accused and the owner of the Devisthaan, has been at the forefront of anti-Rohingya settlement drive and had been warning people against selling their lands to Muslim settlers. Hence, It smacks of a larger conspiracy.
Even chances maybe that the persons arrested are the real culprits. But isn’t it wise to give them a fair chance before hanging?
We know how state police conducts investigations and invent ‘criminals’ – remember, Ryan International case of Gurgaon, how the bus driver was declared accused and how people were baying for his blood. However, a CBI inquiry proved him innocent. Thus, baying for the blood of the accused ones on the basis of the local police chargesheet, is nothing but a blunder in view of various counter evidences being floated.
Had it been such an open-and-shut case, the whole Kathua, including it’s Bar Association, wouldn’t have been up in arms, though in no way this intends to condone the unlawful stance of the Kathua Bar Association and their shameful act of preventing the supposedly ‘biased’ SIT from filing the chargesheet; they must be punished appropriately for that. But it tells there is something more than meets the eye.
The Hindu Ekta Manch, which consists of locals of the area cutting across the party lines, wasn’t shielding the accused persons, rather they intended to highlight the larger conspiracy, of which this incident was a small part. That’s why everyone is asking a CBI enquiry. Let CBI take over the case, that’s why they’re agitating. To pacify the same sentiments, the two BJP ministers, Chander Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh Choudhary joined the agitation and demanded the same thing – a CBI inquiry. However, both got their heads rolled for supporting the locals for a CBI inquiry in the matter.
The SIT has been accused of unleashing a rein of terror since the day they took over the case from the local police. They made indiscriminate arrests of locals and subjected them to various forms of torture. People of Rasana village have never had such a harrowing experience ever in the past and are terrified. Many have left their village fearing even more trouble.
These people are peaceful communities that hold their temples and their Hinduness very precious. But, already their sense of pride in their religion is under attack by ‘secularist’ Huns all across the nation. Their affinity to their temples and their Hinduness is now an object of ridicule. What else can please ISI more?
The ISI has long been working on a doctrine – ‘Islamize Jammu and the whole of J&K will walk into Pakistan without a war! What else can be a better way to Islamize Jammu than to create a narrative for Hindu-shaming and denigrating their temples? The majority community must be painted as rape apologists in the mainstream media and the civil society and the demonstrators must be declared ‘Pseudo Hindu nationalists’! We’ve started enacting the script, with Bollywood providing the glorious lead.
The ISI idea is working. Maybe, for the first time this nation is seeing a media phenomenon where a minor rape victim is being openly reported by her name, Asifa. For the Bollywood and media, it’s the ‘Asifa rape case’. The script intends to flout the victim’s religion in order to bring out the contrast between her religion and her subsequent rape and murder inside a temple! Read the pattern.
Thus, asking for a CBI investigation by the Kathua demonstrators is nowhere an atrocious demand. It’s rather the most appropriate act in the given circumstance. Maybe, for the first time, I have ever seen anyone asking for a CBI inquiry and being castigated for it! If Unnao rape case can be handed over to the CBI, why Kathua case can’t go to the CBI, especially when so many doubts have been raised on the composition and intention of the SIT?
Hence, for the Bollywood celebrities, the symbolism wouldn’t have lost if they hadn’t passed judgment on the ‘Devisthaan’ that demeaned it and, instead, had asked for a CBI inquiry to clear the air once for all.
I’m an Indian and I want justice for Asifa through a CBI enquiry. What about you?