In the ‘Country That Cried Wolf’, we talked about the act of rape in India, what the laws are, and the most notable incidents, including the most recent one. Let’s look at what the aftermath of this was.
An eight-year-old girl, Asifa Bano, was abducted, raped, and murdered in Kathua, Jammu Kashmir in January 2018. This incident made national news in April 2018, when eight men were accused. The victim belonged to the nomad Bakarwal community, and the accused were all Hindus, two of which were part of the Special Forces as well. While it created national outroar, many Right-wing Hindus, including two ministers from a leading political party, Forest Minister Lal Singh Chaudhary and Industries Minister Chander Prakash participated in a protest to celebrate this act, and free the accused.
How did people react?
What happened to Asifa took place in January, but didn’t really get any traction until April, when the charges were filed. The rape and murder drew widespread condemnation and made headlines in India. Along with multiple protests being held across Jammu and Kashmir, opposition parties in Jammu Kashmir staged a walkout from the Legislative Assembly in protest of the incident. The Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stated that the death penalty would be made mandatory for individuals convicted of raping a minor and that the investigation would be carried out quickly. The Indian Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, shared the same opinions regarding the death penalty in cases of child rape and stated that her ministry would move a cabinet note to amend The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act.
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi hadn’t spoken about it yet, which enraged many people. But on 13th April 2018, he made statements condemning the incident and justice would be ensured. The United Nations also expressed hopes that authorities will bring perpetrators to justice. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that the guilty must be held responsible and described the incident as horrific.
This incident led to several celebrities and prominent politicians voiced anger over the incident, where a candlelight march was held at India Gate, New Delhi on 12th April 2018. An FIR had been filed against lawyers protesting in support of Hindu Ekta Manch. Vishnu Nandakumar, and assistant manager for Kotak Mahindra Bank in Kerala was fired by the bank for generating outrage on social media for condoning the rape on Facebook and stating, “it is better that [Asifa is] killed now otherwise she would have been a bomb tomorrow.” Due to the rape cases in Kathua and Unnao coming to the limelight in the national discourse at the same time, joint protests for the incidents were carried out together in various parts of the country such as a Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi.
What happened to the accused?
The trial for the murder and rape case began in Jammu and Kashmir on 16 April 2018 before the Principal Sessions Court. The second hearing was to be scheduled for the 28th. The case was held under the Ranbir Penal code according to the laws in Jammu and Kashmir since the Indian Penal code is not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.
The victim’s father approached the Supreme Court seeking safety, security, and to transfer the case outside Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court then sought for a response from the Jammu and Kashmir government to shift the trial to Chandigarh by 27 April 2018. The court also ordered security for to the victim’s family and lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat.
The juvenile accused in the rape case had sought a bail application on the ground of his age before the judicial magistrate, which was denied by Kathua Chief Judicial Magistrate A S Langeh. On 7 May 2018, the Supreme Court moved the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot and instructed for the trial to be fast-tracked. The trial was held in-camera and was closed to the public and press as per instructions from the Supreme Court.
The Conspiracy Theory
Ankur Sharma, one of the lawyers defending some of the accused claimed that “Jihadis” are behind the gruesome incident. He believed that the body of the eight-year-old girl had been planted to change the religious demography of Jammu and Kashmir. This allegation came in a day after the complainant in the case finished recording his statement before the district and sessions court at Pathankot. However, Ankur Sharma had no substantial evidence to support the allegations he made.
Sharma along with other defence lawyers had approached the Supreme Court in May 2018, asking for the case to be handed over to the CBI. But the court turned their request and instead ordered the trial to be shifted over to Pathankot in Punjab. Sharma had also demanded revocation of the minutes of a meeting chaired by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in February this year. He believed that the order of the ministry of tribal affairs was ensuring ‘demographic changes’ in Hindu-majority areas of Jammu. “The rape-murder case and February 14 minutes of the meeting were inter-related with a clear agenda on how to convert the Hindu majority into a minority in Jammu to enable Mehbooba Mufti and mainstream political parties of Kashmir fulfil separatists and terrorists’ agenda of 100 per cent Islamisation of Jammu and Kashmir,’’ he added. He said, “With full responsibility and on the basis of information and evidence gathered, I say that the rape and murder is, in fact, a terror killing.” He said that the agencies and terrorist organisations wanted to encroach upon forests around Rasana village to change the demography of the area by demotivating local people and making them feel powerless through this murder.
A similar demand was made by a leader of the Panthers Party, Bhim Singh. He wanted the CBI to hold an independent enquiry which was also denied by the Supreme Court of India.
What Does This Mean for India?
The Kathua case isn’t the only incident, and people will soon forget about it like the other cases. India has been a hub for a lot of dark crimes.
And with all of this, India is now the worst place in the world to be a woman. Why?
According to the poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, India is at the top of the list of the most dangerous countries for women due to the widespread sexual violence, trafficking and retrograde cultural practices. The following factors were considered for this poll: health care, cultural traditions, discrimination, sexual and non-sexual violence, and human trafficking. And India surpassed all the countries in at least half of them. India ranked fourth behind Afghanistan, Congo, and Pakistan when a similar post was last conducted in 2011.
Results of the poll came out a few months after the Kathua and Unnao cases; two gruesome rape cases of a minor that captured national and international attention. The 2012 Delhi rape case ignited a whole string of events and protests considering women safety in India. It even caught the attention of people around the world and was one of the first brutal cases anyone had come across. Rape laws have changed since then, but that didn’t stop anybody. We came across a few more gruesome cases, the recent cases included, but that’s about it. Nothing can be done to make women, even children safe. And this is just part of the problem.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, cases of crimes against women rose by nearly 40% to 338,954 between 2012 and 2016. This includes crimes like sexual assault, rape, dowry deaths, acid attacks and so much more.
While rape is one of the biggest issues, human trafficking isn’t far behind. Around 15,000 cases were recorded in India in 2016, and around two-thirds involved female victims under the age of 18; sold into sex work or domestic servitude. Five activists performed a street play to raise awareness two weeks ago and were reportedly raped at gunpoint in the state of Jharkhand.
For nearly half its population, a safe India is nothing but a distant dream. Not many rape cases are recorded due to this amazing thing called victim shaming, not only does the society point fingers at the victim, but it comes from people who are supposed to help and not sit back and judge. The taboo around sex is yet another obstacle you must get around but talking about it and reporting it always helps. Please follow the links below if you’re afraid to speak up. Raising awareness is a step closer to putting a stop to rape culture.
Here are a couple of links that might help:
India’s Dark Side is the third and final part of this three-part series. You can check out Part One India’s Chaotic Relationship With Rape and Part Two The Country That Cried Wolf. Thank you for checking out this series, and please share this with someone you think this may help.