The infuriated uproar over the Kathua case shows no signs of abating and rightly so, no amount of condemnation can be enough for this horrible crime. The laws in our country certainly need to be more stringent when it comes to crimes like rape. Salma (Name Changed) was a child belonging to the Bakerwals– a nomadic community, and she lived with her family in Kathua. Geographically, Kathua falls in Jammu and Bakerwals are not Kashmiri-speaking, in the past there has been no love lost between the Valley Muslims and this community. Yet, this case was taken up by Kashmiri Muslim journalists/activists and politicians with a great deal of zeal, the deliberate ‘politicisation’ of the crime starts from that point.
The horrendous crime is said to have taken place in January and sporadic, impassioned articles did appear in the Jammu and Kashmir local Press regarding this incident. There were also articles/reports of an exodus of Hiranagar residents who complained of harassment at the hands of the police. Then gradually, the Kathua Case started getting picked up by Leftists on Social Media. At this year’s India Today Conclave, a Leftist activist called Shehla Rashid brought up this issue in a totally unrelated debate on ‘Identity Politics’. At that time, the moderator Rahul Kanwal seemed unaware of the incident, he did not react. Then suddenly a few days ago, the whole Gang of Lutyens journalists started tweeting about Salma (Name Changed), accompanied by a flurry of articles on MSM and social media.
Soon enough, television channels started competing with each other in condemning not just those accused of perpetrating this horrific crime, but also those who were said to have ‘defended them’, in deafening tones. The trouble was, they didn’t just condemn the incident but also passed judgement. Some people from Jammu were declared ‘pro-rapist’ and lambasted by the self-righteous anchors who gave them no chance to get a word in! Nothing new about that, BUT in a case as horrific as this one, which involves not just two religious communities but two markedly different regions of a state, such ‘activism’ should have been avoided. The pictures of an innocent, unfortunate child were endlessly flashed on television screens and web articles, in complete violation of legal guidelines. It seemed as if the media was intent upon foisting a set narrative upon its viewers.
And the viewers fell for it, hook, line and sinker. The media barrage battered at every decent heart. So often were the words ‘temple’ and ‘rituals’ used that to be Hindu seemed like an acknowledgment of guilt. In an article for Scroll, Samar Halarnkar wrote: “The plotters represent many millions of such Hindus who have reached the conclusion that India must eventually become an apartheid state, a Hindu rashtra where the Hindu has first claim to everything.” In other words, these journalists lost no time in equating ‘the plotters of Kathua’ with ‘millions of Hindus’! In the meantime, raucous anchors were busy convincing their viewers that the people of Jammu were some sort of villains who not only ‘supported the rapists’ but actually organised a bandh to show that ‘support’. Panelists from Jammu were invited for the endless TV Debates on the issue, but not allowed to utter a word. Every anchor, including Arnab and Rahul Shivshankar, came down like a tonne of bricks on the Dogras who kept trying to say that the reasons for the Jammu Bandh had been entirely different from those furnished by the media.
Jammu is the Hindu-majority region of the State of J&K but the Dogras have been harbouring a seething resentment for quite some time now. Not only have they been denied their fair share of funds, development and power, the demography of the region has been eroded by a steady influx of Rohingya and Bangladeshi ‘refugees‘. Despite the controversial Article 35A which stipulates that only permanent residents of J&K can be allowed to live in the state, these aliens have been allowed to come all the way from Myanmar and settle in Jammu. Forget about the demographic factor, these people pose a security threat as the areas where they’ve been settled are close to the border with Pakistan. Added to this sense of unease was what the Jammu people perceived as BJP’s neglect of the region. Despite riding into power in J&K solely on the basis of the overwhelming majority from this region, the BJP has consistently ignored Jammu and its problems. These were the main issues that they sought to highlight through their Bandh.
However, certain journalists insisted on making this a ‘Hindutva’ issue. Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted: “First you rape and kill a eight year old girl; then you seek to protect the killers with the tricolour and Jai Shri Ram slogans”.
First you rape and kill a eight year old girl; then you seek to protect the killers with the tricolour and Jai Shri ram slogans; then you engage in communal whataboutery. Our conscience is dead. I hang my head in shame. We all should. Not a shubhratri.
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) April 12, 2018
Was he actually implying that the people who participated in the Bandh were guilty and were shielding the ‘killers’? How irresponsible can these journalists get in their zeal to implicate Hindus in a crime that doesn’t even have a connection with humanity. As for the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans that he objects to, the very same day cries of ‘Nizam-ei-Mustafa’ and ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ rent the air at a Kashmir University sit-in that ostensibly protested against Salma (Name Changed)’s killing. But, as usual, that part of the story was conveniently overlooked because little Salma (Name Changed) happened to be a Muslim. In today’s Times of India, Aakar Patel writes, “Those who claim shock at the event in Kathua should know: this is exactly what majoritarianism looks like.” Depraved individuals violating a child is a sign of majoritarianism? In the same article, he goes on to describe Muslims as “second-rate and possibly third-rate citizens of this republic”. Aakar Patel would have us believe that the aggressive Kashmiri Muslims, who succeeded in hounding out the peaceful and passive community of Kashmiri Pandits in Hindu-dominated India and managed to keep them out of their homes in the valley for close to THREE decades, are ‘second-rate citizens’!
It is clear to those who know how things work in the Valley, that the Kathua incident was a project taken up by Kashmiri Muslim journalists, some of whom admit that they ‘camped in Kathua’ for months to get their story. This was their chance to take up a case of a Muslim girl who got raped and killed by Hindus to highlight their narrative of ‘Kashmiri Muslims oppressed by India’, how could they miss it? Once the ‘investigation’ had been completed, they alerted their vast network of sympathisers in the Indian and International media and the rest is history. All of a sudden, there was a flurry of tweets and posts from ‘like-minded people’– all offering the same point of view, accompanied by a steady stream of articles in the mainstream media as well as news portals on the web. By evening, television channels had taken over and the same narrative got repeated over and over again. Amazingly, the BJP failed to grasp the gravity of this media onslaught. There was no reaction, no damage-control or explanation, it was as if the media had been allowed to take over.
By the time the first signs of a reaction from the BJP government came, it was already too late. Most people had been ‘helped’ to form an opinion and the killing of Salma (Name Changed) had already been labelled a ‘Hindu hate-crime’ simply because the unfortunate victim happened to be a Muslim and those accused of the crime were Hindus.
These media crusaders, egged on by the Kashmiri Muslim lobby, did not bother to wonder why a crime committed in Jammu was taken up so zealously by a group of people from the valley. Was it because she happened to be a Muslim, would they have bothered had she been from some other faith? Why was the name of a Kashmiri Pandit police officer bandied about and gushed over by all the ‘Celebrity Journalists’ who are normally allergic to the Kashmiri Pandit Community? Was it because the imprint of the Valley Muslims was all over the case and the mention of an upright and dutiful Kashmiri Pandit would divert attention from that fact? Was this case being used to suppress the new-found ‘activism’ and sense of identity of the Jammu region? Was the backlash from the media campaign meant to ensure that no one bothered to listen to the voice of Jammu thereafter? Worse still, was this whole exercise meant to settle the Rohingya issue once and for all?
As a Hindu, I object to the ugly way in which the word ‘temple’ is being used and underlined in posters and articles. To my knowledge, the place where the incident is reported to have taken place, is a local prayer room where the villagers gathered for Aarti, it is not a traditional Hindu temple. If the media can be circumspect while referring to places of worship of other communities, why this lack of discretion where Hindus are involved? There are factors that suggest that the child was killed elsewhere and her body was brought to this place to be hidden there, why are some journalists insisting that the ‘temple’ was the scene of the crime?
Just as in the Nirbhaya Case, outraged citizens have been organising candlelight vigils and protest marches to show their shock and anger, countless petitions have been signed to demand justice for Salma (Name Changed). But what differentiates this case from the earlier one is that the anger and outrage for Nirbhaya united the nation, whereas now there are forces bent upon dividing not just a state but the whole country along religious lines. The image of innocent little Salma (Name Changed) will haunt every Indian, whether they are Hindu or Muslim, but the role played by a certain section of the media to pit one against the other, will not be forgotten or forgiven. Rapists are depraved monsters and those who politicise or use a heinous crime like rape to achieve their own diabolical ends are inhuman, to say the least. It is ironical that the very people who shout that ‘terror has no religion’ each time there is a terrorist attack, are the ones who now insist that these rapists do have a religion.
The Kathua Case has highlighted not just the religious divide between Kashmir and Jammu, it has once again brought to the fore the step-motherly treatment that has always been meted out to Jammu. For people in our country to ask for a CBI probe is not a rare occurrence, so why is such a demand by the people of Jammu being looked at so suspiciously, where is the harm in a thorough and unbiased investigation by a central agency? Those guilty of this crime MUST be shown no mercy but the media needs to stop playing Judge + Jury in this case involving young Salma (Name Changed). These are peace-loving, simple people who have seldom made any demands or resorted to the kind of violence that is seen in the Valley, it is time for the Central Government to acknowledge that Jammu is as important a part of the State as Kashmir has been made out to be. It’s time to listen to what the people of Jammu are trying to tell the rest of India. Most of all, it is time to realise that a carefully constructed narrative is being presented to the public to create and reinforce the fiction of ‘Hindu Terror’. While the world grapples with ISIS and its offshoots, which are already rearing their head in Kashmir, our ‘Sec-lib’ journalists are keeping us busy with the bogey of ‘Hindutva-Militant Hinduism-Saffron Terror’!