God save our girls!

Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir is famed for putting up a tough fight and scaring away the army of Alexander.

Faces with fear and insecurity that naturally become apparent when the name of Kashmir is uttered, can only be rarely seen here. The place is generally peaceful with relatively less intervention of the separatists and the army. Kathua which is known specially for its temperate climate is a great tourism hub as well; the city is rich with rivers such as Ravi, Ujj and Khad that flow continuously all year around.  But today, it is the tears and blood of a population that flow through those rivers. Despite being the citizens of our country, the nomadic community called Bakerwal that has been denied land and shelter, has collectively taken to the streets of that city for justice. Although the incident in which an 8-year old girl belonging to their community was gang-raped and brutally murdered inside a temple could be generally seen as the reason behind the protests at present, latest reports show that things are not that trivial.  Besides the fact that even the BJP MPs have come forward to protect those accused in the case, the heinous deed was also part of the attempts to deliberately wipe out a community.

The Bakerwal community following Islamic faith hardly earns a livelihood through cattle-rearing.   Because they do not own any land, they lead a nomadic pastoral life and move from place to place depending on the climate.  Thus during winter their place is Kathua where the population is 90 per cent Hindu.   During such stay, they live there by leasing the locals'  land.   But in the last few years,  Kathua residents have not been allowing them peaceful stay.   After the BJP alliance came to power, the anti-Bakerwal prejudice intensified, and they often became victim to attacks by the locals.   It was in this series that the girl was brutally murdered.  The girl, who went with a horse for grazing, went missing on January 10.   What they could see after ten days was her dead body.  Following big protests, the Crime Branch investigated the case and caught the culprits.   As soon as that happened, the leaders of BJP and Hindu Ekta Manch arrived on the scene and proved to whom their loyalty lay.  That group had two BJP ministers too. 

In Unnao in Uthar Pradesh, more or less the same things happened.   The case of BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar raping a minor girl,   has now been referred to CBI by the Yogi Adityanath government when compelled by countrywide outrage.  The girl's father who went to the police station to lodge a complaint was killed in police custody.  Even here, the officials took sides with the culprits.  We have seen on several occasions that ever since Yogi came to power, the state's law and order situation has been in turmoil.   According to the data of National Crime Records Bureau, the state where the highest number of atrocities against women took place,  is UP.  Within two months from Yogi's assuming office, 803 cases of rape were reported from there.

Why would it be that Prime Minister Modi is not prepared even to make a statement on incidents like these?  On many occasions, he used to highlight as one of his prestige projects the 'beti bachao, beti padhao (save the girl, educate the girl).  Now his approach is enough to establish that he does not have even the least sincerity in that project.    And the Opposition criticism that this slogan has to be changed to 'BJP se beti bachao, beti ke pita ko bachao' (save the girl from BJP, save the girl's father),  need not be seen as a mere political clamour.

It has been proved many times that even the current circumstances do not offer any protection to our girls.  The last Economic Survey had explained how female babies were wiped out from the face of the earth right in their embryonic stage.   That means we have become a society that treats female baby births as a bad omen.  On the other hand, there are wild thorns on the prowl to hurt the female babies who are born.   We can but say God save our girls!

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