Rape is one of the most heinous crimes that happen on this planet. And when the victim is a child, the act becomes more atrocious in its nature. The latest victim of this brutality was Asifa from Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir. Amid nationwide horror over chilling details of the gang-rape and murder of this 8-year-old girl, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s statement in which she has said that the state will bring in a new law that would make death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors deserves all the appreciations. CM’s remarks come at a time when the government is facing flak from all quarters over the probe into the case. The Chief Minister further ensured that proper procedures would be followed to ensure justice was served and the perpetrators were punished. This statement from CM might set the state’s think tank on a serious discussion whether introduction of death penalty to those who rape minors would be a good thing to do or not. States like Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have already introduced capital punishment for such crimes in their respective states. Though organizations like Amnesty International would always oppose such moves claiming that capital punish in general goes against the fundamental rights, situations like Kathua would surely put a question mark over their stand. Asifa was kidnapped when she was grazing horses near her home. She was kept sedated and gang-raped repeatedly for days by a group that included police officers. She was drugged and not given food the entire time. According to the police chargesheet submitted in the court, just before her head was bashed in with a rock, one of the police officers asked the killer to wait so he could rape the child one more time. Asifa’s suffering is surely the heights of human brutality and barbarism. The child’s mutilated body was found in the forests after seven days. More ironical about this incident was that all this was happening inside a temple which gave all political opportunists a chance to create a design where they could play the issue for their own political ambitions. However, it was good on the part of people of Jammu and Kashmir who understood the situation in its true sense and didn’t fall prey to the heartless intentions of all those who wanted the situation to escalate into a full-blown violence in the name of community, region or religion.
As soon as the details about this unfortunate event started coming out, it send a shock wave across the whole nation resulting in social media campaigns under the title ‘#JusticForAsifa’. Thousands of people signed online petitions demanding justice for Asifa. Jammu and Kashmir police also did a commendable job by investigating the case in a transparent manner. Amidst attempts to communalize the issue it was great to see the manner in which two Kashmiri Pandits, a police-officer and a lawyer stood firm in their intentions and approaches towards the case. Ramesh Jalla SSP crime Jammu who was heading the investigation with the help of another investigating officer NaveedPeerzada, a Hindu and a Muslim duo, were able to set an example by probing the case in real time and were widely hailed on social media for their outstanding work. “A Kashmiri Pandit and a Kashmiri Muslim. Kudos!” tweeted people in thousands. Braving all odds and defying threats, another Kashmiri Pandit lawyer DepikaThusoo, waged has a legal battle to provide justice to Asifa. She has faced threats and abuses from Jammu lawyers who were seeking transfer of the case to CBI. This wrecked lot of lawyers, who have now shifted their views, could be seen flocking the streets of Jammu some days back. These events further strengthened the Hindu-Muslim bond in the state which the people attempting to communalize the situation would have never thought. The event further glorifies the beauty of Kashmiriyat for which the state has been known for centuries.
While everything seems to be going into its right direction at the moment, millions of people from Kashmir and the world will wait for the moment justice is delivered to Asifa’s family in its real sense. In a situation where trivializing rapes through jokes have also been a part of our leisure in the past, it was great to see the whole nation standing together for Asifa’s cause. Rape is a gross violation of human rights and wholly not acceptable. No one, regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, race, social status, disability, or profession deserves to be raped. Keeping up to its promise made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, government should act fast in placing and approving the bill demanding capital punishment for those who rape minors so that Asifa’s case becomes an example for all those who find adventures in such acts brutality and barbarism. As citizens, we all have an indispensable role to play in creating a violence-free society. Let us dream and work collectively in creating a society where every person is valued, human dignity is upheld and no one suffers the way our little Asifa did.
(The writer is pursuing PhD in journalism at University of Mumbai)