Srinagar, Jan 24: The murder of 8-year-old Asifa from Hiranagar tehsil in Kathua has raised question about the safety of girls in the state.
The minor, belonging to the Bakerwal or Gujjar community, was abducted on January 10, and after eight days on January 17, her body was left in bushes over a kilometre from her home close to a police station.
The Kashmir Monitor spoke with a cross section of the women, all of whom seemed concerned about the safety of girls’ in the state.
Essar Batool, a social activist, said, “We cannot say it is increasing, but it is becoming a serious concern now. Women in Jammu and Kashmir need to come to the front to fight sexual violence, especially girl child abuse.”
She said Kathua incident could be a conspiracy or the culprit may be from another community.
“That is why police is protecting his identity,” she said.
She said there should be a proper investigation into the incident and the culprit should be punished.
“It is very sad to see how the state government is handling the incident. Why did they need to arrest the lawyer who was fighting for the minor’s justice?” she asked, adding that it probably points towards larger problems that are better known to the government.
Parveena Ahangar, Founder and Chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), said the parents of the minor need to be heard.
“This matter needs to be investigated without any bias. We cannot afford to tolerate the brutal killings of our minors. This has to be stopped,” she said.
Dr Gazalla Noor Amin, Secretary General, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industries, said there should be a change in the mindset of people across the state.
“A lot of women issues are related to cultural differences. It is not only about the women, it is about the attitude of the society towards the marginalised people. Lower castes and other religious minorities are being targeted everywhere and are unsafe,” she said.
She said there are so many incidents of minors getting raped within the family.
“It is the responsibility of the parents to encourage their girl children to speak up against sexual abuse,” she said.
A women journalist, Insha Latief, said that it was shocking to see minors on the list of sexual violence victims.
She said it was equally sad to see nobody in Kashmir protesting against the incident.
“It is a very shameful act and needs to be condemned. Such cases need proper investigative reportage. I don’t understand why media here is silent over it,” she said.
However, Taufiq Rashid, a senior journalist, said, “Jammu and Kashmir is safe for women. There are less sexual violence cases in the state compared to other states of the country. The recent incident was very unfortunate and needs to be investigated.”
Tauseef Rasheed, a working woman, said the Kathua incident gave her goose bumps.
“Tomorrow, I will have my own kids and I am worried about their safety. Jammu and Kashmir has become unsafe for the women. It hurts,” she said.
Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor, Chairperson Jammu and Kashmir State Commission, said, “We were the first to reach the minor’s home in Kathua. We have taken up the matter with the authorities. We will not let any stone unturned unless the justice is prevailed.”