Verdict in Asifa Bano case gives hope, but Indian nation has certainly let her down

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June 14, 2019

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By Gurpreet Singh

June 10 was a great day for those who have been fighting for justice to an eight-year-old victim of rape and murder.

This is especially true for the courageous Human Rights Lawyer, Deepika Singh Rajawat who stepped forward at personal risk to defend the family of Asifa Bano, a Muslim nomad girl who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed by Hindu fundamentalists in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in January 2018.

The horrific crime attracted international attention.

Those involved in the conspiracy wanted to terrorize and humiliate Muslims in the area by using rape as a weapon.

On Monday, the special court in India convicted six people involved in the incident. Three of them have been given life imprisonment, while three police officers have been sentenced for five years each for destroying the evidence.

Rajawat faced threats and intimidation in the deeply polarized society of India. After all, the accused enjoyed the patronage of the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which holds power. Thanks to her advocacy, the case was transferred outside Jammu and Kashmir to ensure a fair trial.

While the verdict has certainly brought some relief, if one looks at the broader picture Bano has actually been let down by the Indian nation.

In the general election that concluded on May 19, the BJP came back to power with a brute majority. This time, the party that openly and shamelessly supported those involved in the gruesome act bagged 300 seats in the house of 543, more than the 282 it captured in 2014.

If the Indian electorate was honest, the BJP should have been punished in these elections. Rather the party got rewarded by the Hindu majority. Apparently, voters obsessed with the BJP’s outright sectarian agenda to transform the country into Hindu theocracy completely ignored the cries of Bano.

Not only that, the majority voters also overlooked the fact that Bano was confined in a temple that was used for such a sacrilegious act. It seems that they weren’t even outraged over BJP folks coming out in support of the accused with the national flag.

The people who raped and murdered Bano, and those who came out on streets to support them were merely a few, but by re-electing a party that claims to be a custodian of Hindu religion and national interest, the entire nation has deceived the soul of the little child.

Whatever may be the explanation, the May election results were in sharp contrast to the mandate of 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi ascended to power against the backdrop of infamous Nirbhaya case.

In December 2012, a woman was gang raped and physically assaulted on a public bus in Delhi, the national capital. The victim later succumbed to her injuries. The death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, who came to be known as Nirbhaya, was followed by angry protests in the capital.

The whole episode became a matter of shame for those in power. People thought that the government lacked will and strength to stop sexual violence on the streets of Delhi.

Among the demonstrators were the supporters of Modi and his party. Those opposed to then-Congress government did not let the issue die until the next election.

Modi openly appealed to the voters not to forget what happened to Nirbhaya when they went to vote. He categorically asked them to keep in mind the victim of the Delhi rape before voting for Lotus – the electoral symbol of BJP. Thus, the Delhi rape and murder became one of the many issues when Modi was elected to power in May 2014 with a hope for a strong government.

Come 2019, such drive was missing. Maybe Asifa wasn’t even on anyone’s mind.

It is pertinent to mention that the conspirators had also incited communal hatred against Muslim nomads, accusing them of killing cows. Asifa had clearly become another victim of cow politics which has gripped the general mood of the nation ever since Modi first became the Prime Minister. Since Hindus consider the cow as a sacred animal, the self-styled cow vigilantes have intensified their hateful and violent campaign against Muslims and Christians all over the country. They continue to target these communities on suspicion of consuming beef.

Modi, who never missed an opportunity to rake up the issue of Nirbhaya before his 2014 election, remained silent on the sexual assault and murder of Asifa and did not find it necessary to reprimand his party men for supporting wrong people.

Even otherwise, Modi was complicit in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom of Gujarat during which many young Muslim girls were raped by Hindu fundamentalists. The massacre followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. More than 50 people died in the incident that was blamed on Islamic extremists by Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then. He wasn’t punished by the electorate at that time either, getting a heavy majority in the assembly election that followed the massacre.

It’s a shame to see that the entire nation was on its feet when a Hindu woman was raped in Delhi and kept the issue alive until Modi got elected to power in 2014, but the same nation looked the other way when Asifa was raped and murdered in 2018, and forgot her completely when they re-elected those who defended her killers.

This is despite the fact that many social justice activists continued to remind people of what happened to Asifa before the election started.

The election results, coming before the verdict that was the result of pure hard work of people like Rajawat and the prosecutors, have proved one thing – that India is a majoritarian democracy where winning elections by scapegoating non-Hindus has become a norm.

Gurpreet Singh is a Canada- based journalist who publishes Radical Desi- a monthly magazine that covers alternative politics.

11 June 2019

Source: countercurrents.org

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