As the disturbing details of the gruesome rape-cum-murder of Kasur’s Zainab, the gruesome rape-cum-murder of Indian Occupied Kashmir’s Asifa Bano left the human hearts and souls in a terrible agony and in an excruciating pain. The Zainab of IOK-Asifa Bano, an eight year old nomadic shepherd, was abducted in early January when she was herding her cattle in the green luxuriant meadows of IOK. She was taken to a holy temple where she was drugged for many days, raped repeatedly and then was bludgeoned with a stone to her death in front of a silent devi. This grisly story of abduction, torture, murder and rape of the innocent little swallow shook the whole humanity to its core. It drew a chorus of outrage and condemnation in India and beyond its territorial premises. The tragedy was so tragic that even it elicited censure from PM Modi but lately. His right wing political activists missed not a single opportunity to obstruct the way of judicial investigation either by hindering police investigation into the case or by creating hurdles in the way of judicial processes. They protested against the arrest of the culprits involved in this brutality and crime. It is believed that some of the culprits were government officials. It speaks in volume about the mental servitude and sickness of a society.
After the tragic Delhi Bus Case of 2012, the Indian government calibrated some tough rules to vanquish child rape and sexual violence. But the snail-paced response to Asifa’s murder despite the mounting evidence of culpability of the culprits is a damning indictment of the BJP led India. Arguably, Asif’s murder is a litmus test to determine the degree of civility in the Indian nation. It will gauge the sensitivity of the Indian government, its apex judiciary, its vibrant media and above all, its civil society as the murder of Zainab did in Pakistan. It is high time Modi Sarkar should take some pragmatic steps to dispense speedy justice to the family of the departed soul. In this case, the lackadaisical approach of government will exploit the communal fault lines bringing more chaos and terror to the already conflict ridden region. It will exacerbate the already tense situation in IOK. It is not a simple matter of water or land; it is a matter of blood and honor. It is a matter only between India and Pakistan; it is a matter of the global civil society. Thus, the Indian government should come up with a concrete stance to curb this menace which threatens the lives of the most vulnerable faction of the society. Firstly, the Indian government should bridle the rightist activists who threatened more violence if Asifa was buried in a graveyard purchased by the Gujjar community. Secondly, the perpetrators and their abettors and defenders should be brought to the book to get rid of such grisly incidents in future.
The governing authorities should devise a narrative to make the Hindu right activists realize the fact that the murder of Asifa is not only the murder of Muslim girl but also the desecration and defilement of their sacred and holy temple as well as it is disrespect to their devi. At least, on this occasion, the state should exploit the religious sentiments of people in a right direction. But this realization comes only after critical thinking and logical reasoning which are the foundation stones of a true democracy. If not for Asifa, the government should treat the matter meticulously to protect its own self-declared image of a civilized democracy. If it is left unchecked because of any grudge, the crisis would metastasise and swallow the whole society.
The Indian superior judiciary should follow Pakistani judiciary in this regard-only in this regard. Also Pakistani media role can be appreciated in this regard which highlighted the issue very carefully and professionally, especially print media, with the single exception of Shahid Masood. Legislation only on paper is not enough. Implementation must be ensured. Both India and Pakistan should choreograph and enact laws to defend the legal rights of their people in general and the rights of the most vulnerable populations like women and children in particular. Further delay in the matter will bring a psychological disaster in the society. Mothers will never give birth to baby girls or they will slit their own daughters in their childhood to prevent them from facing any undesirable situation. Just like the mother kills her own daughter “Beloved” in Tonni Morrison’s masterpiece Beloved in a bid to prevent her from facing the same circumstances which the mother herself is facing at the time. In a nutshell, a multipronged policy and its implementation in letter and spirit is direly needed to kill this hydra-headed demon to ensure a peaceful future to our coming generations. The responsible government and its different branches, the vibrant media and the civil society should work in collaboration to defeat this monster for the sake of our own children. In the words of Kofi Anan, we should realize the fact that “there is no duty more important than ensuring that their (children’s) rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace”.
The contributor is an M.Phil Scholar of English Literature at Government College University, Lahore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org