An eight year old girl, whose mother described her as a ‘chirping bird’ who ran like a ‘deer’, from the nomadic Bakarwal community in Jammu & Kashmir, was found missing while she was grazing her horses on January 10th, 2018. Seven days later her body was found in a bush in the forest with broken legs and severe injury marks all over the body. The autopsy revealed that she was drugged and repeatedly raped by multiple men inside a temple. According to the charge sheet, apart from inflicting injuries on her body, she was hit with a stone twice in her head after strangling her to death. Investigators and the little girl’s family feel that the intent of the gruesome act was to terrorize and thereby drive away the Bakarwal Muslims away from that Kathua region which contains 87% Hindus.
It must be clearly borne in mind that rape as a political tool in a large number of cases is extremely common. It is not without reason that the partition of India or riots including the ones in Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar, witnessed a huge number of rapes. The pattern can also be seen in the massive number of rapes that happen in the conflict regions of Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, north east India, etc. by the security forces. It is the crudest, the most bestial reflection of the psychology of a person that has been brainwashed into believing that the most effective way of “teaching ‘them’ a lesson” is by violating their women.
After receiving the dead body of the little girl, the parents wanted to bury it in a graveyard within the village that their community had purchased some years back. However, right wing Hindutva mobs gathered at the spot and prevented them from doing so by threatening of violence. The parents carried the body for 10 km to another village to complete her burial rites.
In support of the accused in the rape and murder, Hindu Ekta Manch, a right wing Hindutva nationalist group, took out a rally in Kathua. Chander Prakash and Lal Singh, both BJP leaders from Jammu, attended that rally. An estimated 5000 strong mob demanded the release of the accused while waving the Indian flag in a jingoist nationalistic fervor. Chander Prakash claimed that he was sent to the rally on the party president’s order.
Some lawyers from the Kathua Bar Association, who allegedly are backed by Hindutva forces, blocked the Crime Branch from filing the charge sheet against the accused for nearly six hours; this was accompanied by chants of Jai Shri Ram. Deepika Singh Rawat, the counsel for the victim, in the mean time, has been threatened and harassed by the Jammu Bar Association president. There is constant social pressure on her to withdraw from the case by the same ideological forces which took out the rally in favor of the accused.
The attitude of the BJP and its ideological parent RSS (and its offshoots) is not very difficult to understand when we analyze their views towards women and their role in society. It must be remembered that the Sangh wanted to model India’s constitution post 1947 on the lines on Manusmriti. The regressive nature of Manusmriti, as far as treatment of women is concerned, can be gauged from the way it treats women – that women are objects of lust and only worthy of seduction; that women are the property of the men in the family (be it father, brother, husband, son, etc.); that women should not be given the right to choose her partner or independently choose the kind of work that she would do – the list is endless. Even when the Hindu code bills, which were to bring legal approval to succession rights, marriage rights, etc., the RSS fought tooth and nail to oppose it. They wrote elaborate arguments in Organizer, December 7, 1949 as to why the right to divorce a man by a woman or the right of a woman to inherit ancestral property would ‘infect every family with scandal, suspicion and vice’.
More recently there have been various comments from the top leadership of RSS which clearly expose their view of women and their role. They believe that rapes happen in India and not in Bharat – indicating that it is an urban phenomenon. They believe that it is the responsibility of the woman to do household chores and satisfy her husband; if they do so, then the husband should protect them. These and other kinds of views are propagated day in and day out in the tens of thousands of shakhas that they operate. Through their members, these regressive values, instead of facing complete rejection, are propagated further in the society.
A thought process that treats women as second class citizens and treats them as objects has to be defeated in every form. Rape if treated as just a law and order issue would be a myopic solution of a greater problem. A social and cultural transformation is what we require to make any serious progress in that direction.