The majority Muslim community in Jammu and Kashmir is under existential threat, explicitly since the BJP came to power in the state in coalition with PDP in 2015.
In Kashmir Valley, the government forces have virtually waged a war against the civilian population and in Jammu, a Hindu majority province with scattered pockets of Muslim population, an ethnic cleansing is on cards. The gruesome rape and murder of 8-year-old Asifa Jan, a Muslim girl belonging to nomadic Bakerwal tribe, was planned to create scare among Muslims so that their traces are erased from the land. This seems to be aimed at repeating the documented massacre of tens of thousands of Muslims in Jammu in 1947, which eventually changed the demography of the region.
On April 11, a day after charge-sheet was presented before district court in Kathua against the rapists and accomplice policemen by the state crime branch, despite local lawyers’ attempt to hamper the judicial process, four unarmed civilians were killed in Kulgam pocket of south Kashmir during an anti-insurgency operation. On April 1, another 4 civilians had been killed when the security forces went on a killing spree in three operations which resulted in the death of 20 people (13 militants, 3 soldiers and 4 civilians). This day is known as ‘bloody Sunday’.
The horrible details of the Asifa’s rape and murder have shaken everyone except the Hindutva brigade who showed the audacity to hold marches in support of the alleged killers and rapists. Worse, two ministers of the Mehbooba Mufti-led cabinet participated in a rally organized by Hindu Ekta Manch in favour of the alleged rapists.
The poor girl has been allegedly raped repeatedly at a local temple and she could not offer resistance as she had been sedated with an anti-anxiety drug. She was raped inside a temple while perverted criminals performed rituals. Before murdering her by hitting her head with a boulder, a pervert raped her one last time. Another was called from Meerut, UP to satiate his lust while the poor girl was in captivity, the charge-sheet prepared by police crime branch revealed.
Seven persons have been accused of the crime in the charge-sheet while the eightth is a juvenile. The charge-sheet says that all the eight persons, including the juvenile, had hatched the criminal conspiracy to kill and rape Asifa. They have been identified as Sanji Ram, the suspected mastermind and former revenue official, his son Vishal, who is a special police officer (SPO), Deepak Khajuria, also an SPO, Head Constable Tilak Raj, Sub-Inspector Anand Kumar, Surinder Verma and Ramesh Kumar. The accused juvenile, Shubham, is in the custody of a juvenile home.
Forensic reports have established that Asifa was held captive inside the Devisthan temple in Hira Nagar, of which Sanji Ram is the caretaker. Strands of Asifa’s hair were recovered from the temple after one of the accused told police that she was held there. He said that Asifa was kept unconscious by giving her a sedative.
The police have also established that the motive of the crime was to drive out the nomadic Gujjar community from their homes and land in Kathua district.
Head Constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Kumar are accused of destroying evidence of the crime. Reports say they washed Asifa’s clothes before submitting them as evidence. Asifa had been abducted on January 10 while grazing her family’s ponies. In his confession, Vishal is alleged to have told the police that the victim’s only fault was that “she was born in a family of Bakerwals”. Tilak Raj, police says, tried to bury the evidence at every stage against culprits in lieu of money.
The Asifa rape and murder turned out to be an anti-climax of growing animosity between the two communities over the rights to land. Since November last year, regular skirmishes between local Hindus and Bakerwals over land trespass and encroachment had taken place in Rasana and other nearby Kathua villages. The Hindus planned to “teach Bakerwals a lesson”.
Police says Sanjhi began planning the crime and chose his juvenile nephew and Khajuria, 28. Both nursed a deep grudge against the nomadic community.
The details of repeated rape on the sedated child and the manner she was brutally killed first by strangulating her and then by hitting her head with a boulder have been shocking.
But, it has not shocked BJP-backed lawyers and a large local population that staged demonstrations in Kathua and neighbouring areas amid claims that the investigation was unfair. They demanded CBI investigation. Two BJP leaders Lal Singh Chaudhary and Chander Prakash Ganga participated in one of the rallies.
At least four women from Rasana went on an indefinite hunger strike, including the mother of one of the accused, to protest against the “wrongful arrests”.
As if the attempting to prevent filing chergesheet was not enough, the High Court Bar Association in Jammu also joined the stir. It called for a Jammu bandh though it did not evoke much response. The traders in Jammu rejected the call. Deepika Rajawat, a young lawyer from Jammu who is pleading Asifa’s case, was threatened by the bar members.
The Jammu bar has attempted to take the controversy to another level too. In a statement, the bar association has put forth other demands including the “deportation of illegally settled immigrants in and around Jammu”. The immigrants are Rohigya Muslims who have taken refuge in a pocket in Jammu. They are under constant threat of deportation.
Observers say that the Mehbooba Mufti government is playing second fiddle to the BJP and is unable to take a stand against the ruling party at Center. Despite her two ministers taking part in rally in favour of the accused, Mehbooba failed to take any action against them. The only resistance she offered was against not handing over the case to CBI and entrusting the investigations to crime branch. A prominent counterinsurgency officer Ramesh Kumar Jalla oversaw the investigation.
The observers see a method in BJP’s madness. They say that the BJP leadership is deliberately keeping the Kashmir cauldron boiling as a prelude to upcoming 2019 general elections. Narendra Modi has failed to put the country on a path of progress despite his tall claims. He can’t fight the elections on development plank. Therefore, killing and subjugating Muslims in Kashmir on various pretexts comes handy. The carnage in Kulgam and Shopian is thus connected with little Asifa’s rape and murder.