The horrendous gangrape and murder of Nirbhaya on December 16, 2012, in the national capital had unleashed a wave of public anger over levels of violence against women in the country, with thousands joining candle marches and protests across the nation.
The Supreme Court in a ‘landmark verdict’ awarded a “well-deserved” death sentence to the four convicts who had brutally raped, mutilated and murdered the 23-year-old paramedic.
It seemed that the nation had learnt the lesson on protecting its daughters and had sent a strong message to rapists and perpetrators of sexual violence.
More than five years on, we now come across the gruesome gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, which took place in January this year.
The brutality and inhumanity has once again brought the nation back to square one. It seems that there is no end to this shame.
Also Read: Kathua rape-murder case: Accused wanted to drive out Muslim tribe; cops took Rs 4 lakh to destroy crucial evidence, claims chargesheet
The Nirbhaya case, and many other such cases like Bilkis Bano, Jisha and Rohtak have taught us nothing, as we are still seeing incidents like Unnao and Kathua.
The details of the alleged gangrape and murder in Kathua elucidated in the chargesheet are chilling.
Held in captivity in a small village temple for a week, the eight-year-old was sedated and gangraped by six men who wanted to ‘satisfy their lust’, before being strangled and bludgeoned to death. Her body was then dumped in a forest nearby.
The juvenile, a school dropout, turned out to be the main player in the abduction and murder, raping the child. The medical examination of the juvenile shows he is an adult but the court is yet to take cognizance of the report.
The chargesheet also names the investigating officers -- head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta -- who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
The shocking support for perpetrators
What was more shocking in this case is that the Jammu Bar Association and lawyers came out in support of the accused, alleging that the minority Dogras were being targeted.
Earlier this month, lawyers took to the streets shouting slogans and trying to block the road outside the court where the chargesheets have been filed.
Their demand was to take the case away from the state police and hand it over to a central agency.
A self-appointed Hindu group (named the Hindu Ekta Manch, or Forum for Hindu Unity) staging marches in defence of the accused rapists, sounding nationalist slogans and waving the national flag.
Two BJP ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government – who resigned later – also criticised the police’s investigation, and rallied in support of the accused.
On the other hand, the lawyer of the victim said that she fears for her life as she may get raped or murdered. Deepika Singh Rajawat also said that she has been called anti-Hindu and boycotted socially.
The communal twist
The 15-page chargesheet listed Sanji Ram – caretaker of the temple – as the main conspirator behind the abduction, rape and killing.
Ram instigated his juvenile nephew and six others to execute the carefully planned strategy to remove the nomadic Muslim community of Bakherwals from the area, according to the chargesheet.
Sanji Ram had been instigating members of the Hindu community of the area to not provide Bhakherwals land for grazing.
Also Read: Kathua rape-murder case: A grim recount of the trauma that the eight-year-old victim went through
The chargsheet has said that the “general impression” among the Hindu community was that “Bhakherwals indulge in cow slaughter” and “drug trafficking” which was “turning their children into drug addicts”.
As a result, Hindus had been “blaming the Bhakherwals on one pretext or the other and used to threaten them”, the chargesheet added.
No sooner had these details emerged that tension prevailed in Kathua with the two communities – Gujjar-Bhakherwals and Dogra Hindus – standing against each other.
A group of Hindu attorneys tried to physically stop police from filing the chargsheet against the accused. They argued that the government had failed to “understand the sentiments of the people.”
In spite of becoming an issue which should have brought the people together, the incident has become a fresh source of polarisation in Jammu and Kashmir and all over.
As expected, political leaders, both from the ruling and opposition parties, have started playing the blame game on the issue. This means that the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl, the agony that she went through, is no longer an issue.