By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
18 April 2018
It is heart wrenching to say the least. An eight year old girl, abducted, repeatedly raped and then killed in the most gruesome fashion should make our heads hang in shame. After nearly three months, it seems that the nation’s conscience has finally been jolted. Suddenly we have clamour for justice for Asifa, voices rising against the horror from New Delhi to Srinagar. It is but a partial victory that the two ministers who were part of the rally in support of the rapists and murderers have now been forced to resign. What remains is an arduous journey to bring the culprits to justice. This requires a lot of patience and hard work on the part of the prosecution as well as civil society activists.
Two things have been worrying in the entire episode. The first being the inordinate delay in the response of the Jammu and Kashmir government as well as the civil society groups since the incident came to light almost three months ago. It is simply baffling to understand such a delayed response. Even when the Jammu BJP had communalised the issue, the PDP government maintained a stoic silence. Part of the reason perhaps was that the story was picked up by the national media after the charge-sheet was filed. The gruesome details which have emerged in the charge-sheet seem to have shamed a lot of people including sections of the right wing media. All of a sudden, we saw that the right wing media was able to find its humanity and ask for justice for this little girl, killed in the most gruesome fashion.
The PDP seems to have been emboldened by this change in the national mood and therefore decided to take up the issue in right earnest. There was some concern within members of Srinagar civil society that since the girl belonged to the backward Bakarwal community, mainstream Muslim politics in the valley would not be too much interested in raising the issue. But then there are some things which are beyond the boundaries of caste and religion. Asifa’s case has been once such case, where the valley spoke with one voice in demanding justice for this hapless victim. Although it was late, but then better late than never.
The BJP needs to do some soul searching over the entire issue. It is disgusting that two of its senior ministers were publically supporting the murderers and rapists. Also, they were involved in organizing rallies in support of the accused. As if Hindu-Muslim antagonism is part of their DNA, the BJP immediately seized the opportunity to frame the whole issue through a communal lens. Since the victim in this case was Muslim, they rallied in support of their Hindu brothers who were accused of rape and murder. But then this is the not the first time they are doing this. They have done this in Rajasthan where they supported and continued to support Shambhulal Raigar. More recently, they even made a tableau during Ram Navami which featured Shambhulal as the defender of Hindus.
There is a pattern therefore in the ways in which the BJP has handled such affairs. The condemnation from the Prime Minister therefore is not enough. If he is really serious about doing something about it, then he should unequivocally name and shame the right wing organizations who are indulging in such acts of terror. Nationalism in this country cannot be hijacked by a bunch of rapists and murderers.
There is a lot of sickening whataboutery around the issue. Hindu right wing trolls have no end reminded us that we do not protest when the victim is a Hindu. There can be nothing farther from the truth. Civil society has acted with equal alacrity irrespective of the religion of the victim. However, the trolls and the right wing apologists need to be reminded that Asifa case was not a simple case of brutality by some deranged and criminal minds. The charge-sheet leaves no doubt that she was a target only because she was a Muslim. The Hindu right wing in Jammu has been indulging in vicious campaigns against the Bakarwals for long and they want them not to return to their grazing pastures every year. Since the Bakarwals are mostly Muslims, they are an easy target because hardly anyone cares for Muslims these days.
Thus Asifa became a victim through a very rational calculated process which was designed to instil terror in the heart of this particular Muslim community. It is not that the opposition parties are communalising the issue; the issue was communal right from the beginning and indeed must be seen as one. There is no other way of seeing the problem. Those who are trying an equivalence between Asifa and Unnao rape victim are missing the point. The Unnao rape case is fundamentally about a power drunk politician who till a few days ago was in a state of masculine delirium.
Asifa’s case is not about the personhood of the accused but an expression of fascist politics where the body of a young girl became the site of imposing fear, intimidation and terror. Every wound on the body of that little girl tells the story of state complicity and a manufactured nationalism which is obsessed with defining itself against Islam and Muslims. When the state itself brutalises the body of its citizens, then it is time to question the nature of the state and nation itself.
Asifa’s brutalised body was not the first, nor will it be the last witness to the madness of Uber nationalism. Many years ago, there was Surat and many years before that, there was Kunan Poshpora. The victims, some dead and some alive, are still waiting for justice. Only time will tell whether our sense of outrage and morality will stop at Asifa or whether she will become the moment of critical introspection about our collective certainties.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com
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