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Deep misogyny and hate drives the daily matrix of social power in India

a compilation of selected commentary & URLS on the sexual brutality and rapes in Kathua and in Unnao

17 April 2018

print version of this article print version - 17 April 2018

The Washington Post

Hindu ‘nationalists’ defend accused rapists and shame India

by Barkha Dutt April 11 [2018]

An Indian social activist holds a placard in February 2017 during a protest against a rape at Hauz Khas village in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images)

Dear India: Where are our candlelight marches, our outrage and our mass protests? Why have we been so muted in our response to the reported gang rapes of two girls, an 8-year-old child and a teenager? And no, our lazy tweets and our commiserating hashtags do not count.

This week, two cases of rape and murder — one of a shepherd girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, the other in Unnao, in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh — have been moments of acute national shame. They have proved how the powerful conspire to enable and protect sexual abusers. Worse, they have exposed the ugliest underbelly of India. Political and societal responses to these charges of rape have revealed entrenched misogyny, religious hatred and a shameful class bias. They have held up a mirror to the worst in us.

We must confront this: The India we thought had changed has not changed at all. In 2012, a massive popular uprising against the gang rape of a medical student in Delhi, dubbed the “Nirbhaya” (fearless) case, led to a tough new set of anti-rape laws. It was considered an inflection point in our conversation about gender. Now we know that not much is better or different. Not our politicians, not our hate-mongers — and sadly not even we, the people.

For the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the government of Narendra Modi, the cases have been especially embarrassing, given the prime minister’s oft-quoted slogan of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (“Save our Girls; Educate our Girls”). In the Unnao case, one of the accused rapists is a legislator of the BJP. The victim tried to commit suicide outside the house of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed monk once billed as a possible successor to Modi. She alleged inaction by the state administration on her complaint, which she had filed last year. Instead, her father was arrested and died in police custody. The hospital report confirmed that he suffered 18 assault injuries, and he is on tape, not long before he died, naming the man whose goons beat him up: the brother of the lawmaker accused of the rape.

In the Kathua case, you cannot read the police charge sheet without feeling nauseous. It details how a little child from the Bakherwal nomadic community had taken her family’s horses to graze in a nearby forest and never returned. The charges say she was repeatedly drugged, taken hostage and hidden inside a temple. One of the accused rapists (eight men have been arrested in connection with the case, including local police officers) was reportedly “invited” from Meerut, hundreds of miles away, to participate. The child was strangled with her own scarf; a stone was then slammed on her head to “make sure that the victim [was] dead,” according to the charges.

There is a photograph of her, smiling, wide-eyed and full of hope, in anticipation of a life yet to come. And there is a second photograph of her defaced body abandoned in the forest. You cannot look at the two pictures together without looking away almost instantly. The police say the rape and murder were part of a plot to “dislodge” the shepherd community, which is Muslim, from the village. The case quickly took a hideous communal twist, with a self-appointed Hindu group (named the Hindu Ekta Manch- or Forum for Hindu Unity) staging marches in defense of the accused rapists, sounding nationalist slogans and waving the national flag — defiling all that the flag stands for. Two BJP ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government also criticized the police’s investigation. Worse, a mob of lawyers blocked law enforcement officials when they arrived at court to file the charges, again seeking refuge behind the flag and slogans. Their demand was to take the case away from the state police and hand it over to a central agency. This was a hideous sectarian politicization of a child’s rape.

The silence of the top women ministers in the Modi cabinet on both the Kathua and the Unnao cases has been disturbing, and only undermines their track record as trailblazers. Women hold key portfolios of defense, foreign affairs, and information and broadcasting, among others. But what good are these path-breaking positions of authority if the women don’t speak for female victims of violence and abuse? Not that men shouldn’t lead by example. In 2012, the Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi raised similar questions about whether it made any difference that a female politician governed Delhi and that the then-ruling party — the Congress — was helmed by a woman.

Finally, we must reflect on our own responses. Sure, Indians are angry. We are tweeting furiously and writing posts on Facebook. But our class bias, especially in the media, has been unveiled. The Delhi rape of 2012 was close to the bone; it could have been any one of us or those who watched and read us. So the coverage that case got was instantaneous and intense. It has taken months for these cases to get to prime time. And even so, how many of us will move beyond our keyboards and spill over onto the streets — as we did for Nirbhaya?

Kathua and Unnao are now known not just nationally but internationally. And yet, some will complain about this column appearing in a “foreign” newspaper. How “anti-national,” I will be told on social media by people missing the irony. These Hindu “nationalists” who spoke for accused rapists have shamed India, our constitution and, of course, Hinduism.

o o o

The New York Times, April 17, 2018

What the Rape and Murder of a Child Reveals About Modi’s India

by Mitali Saran

Image: A vigil for 8-year-old Asifa Bano in Jumma, India, on April 14.CreditJaipal Singh/EPA, via Shutterstock

NEW DELHI — India is sliding toward a collapse of humanity and ethics in political and civic life, as the recent reports of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl from a seminomadic Muslim community in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir reveal. Politicians from India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party defended the men accused of the crime and ignited a furious debate about the fundamental character of the country.

The child was abducted in January and imprisoned for a week in a temple, where she was drugged, starved and raped repeatedly before being murdered. Her body was thrown into the forest. At the time the crime passed without much comment beyond the local press.

Outrage finally exploded last week, after a front-page report in the Indian Express newspaper revealed terrifying details from the police charge sheet, including the fact that one of the accused, a police officer, had asked his co-conspirators to hold off killing the child so that he could rape her once more.

The charge sheet and other reports strongly suggested that this was not a random crime but one deliberately in line with the ugly sectarian politics playing out across India. Intimidation of religious minorities and violence against them has increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to power in 2014. India’s traditional secularism is now locked in battle with the new majoritarian, Hindu chauvinist politics he represents.

The 8-year-old girl belonged to the Muslim Bakarwal people, who move with their sheep and horses between high mountain pastures in the summer and the plains of the Hindu-dominated Jammu region in winter. There is tension with local Hindus over the right to graze animals on the land. According to the police, the motive of the premeditated crime was to terrorize the Bakarwals and dislodge them from the area. The bereaved parents were not even allowed to bury the child in the village. They have since fled the area.

A newly formed group called Hindu Ekta Manch, or Hindu Unity Forum, organized a protest march in defense of the accused, who include a retired government official and two police officers. Thousands joined in, many waving the Indian national flag. Vijay Sharma, a co-founder of the group and an organizer of the march, was also a high-ranking leader of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the region.

Mr. Modi’s party shares power with a regional political party in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two B.J.P. ministers in the state government joined the protest in defense of the accused. “So what if a girl died?” one of them remarked. “Many girls die every day.”

They demanded that the investigation be transferred from the state police — the investigators included Muslim officers — to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation, a largely delegitimized institution that serves as a de facto arm of the ruling party. Lawyers at a court in the city of Jammu tried to physically prevent officials from filing charges against the accused and have threatened the lawyer who is representing the girl’s family.

Over the past week, horrified Indians have protested vigorously on social media and in some cities. The disgust and the fury at the complicity of politicians, and the federal government’s silence, grew into a thunderous chorus demanding that the prime minister speak up and fire the ministers backing the Hindu Ekta Manch.

Belatedly reacting to popular outrage, Mr. Modi finally said: “Incidents being discussed since past two days cannot be part of a civilized society. As a country, as a society, we all are ashamed of it.” He promised justice. His vague statement delicately alluded to another case in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where a lawmaker from Mr. Modi’s party is accused of rape. Mr. Modi stayed away from his party’s involvement in both cases.

Yet instead of uniting India in horror, the incident has deepened religious, political and ethical divides. It has also made clear that there is no automatic political cost to crime or falsehood if it furthers the hegemonic political narrative. The politicians involved were sacked only after a huge public outcry. Government ministers, officials, right-leaning media and right-wing supporters have been perfectly sanguine about using the dead child to polarize society with whataboutery, fake news and wild conspiracy theories.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Modi’s party, Meenakshi Lekhi, attacked opposition protests, suggesting that they were selective and opportunistic. “You see their plan,” she said. “First shout ‘minority minority’, then ‘Dalit Dalit’ and now ‘women women’ and then try to somehow fix blame of state issues on the center.” An influential ex-editor tweeted that Muslim Rohingya refugees were to blame for the crime. A B.J.P. youth activist posted a comment, now deleted, on his Facebook page saying that the rape must have been fun. A pornography site reported a surge in searches for videos using the raped and murdered girl’s name.

The sense of national crisis today is because Indians feel a rising urgency to either counter this ethical collapse or to capitalize on it in the run-up to the next election.

Mr. Modi came to power in 2014, and four years into his term, religious and cultural bigotry stands mainstreamed in Indian society.

Many who voted for Mr. Modi’s economic promises are disappointed by his failure to deliver, and impatient with his deliberate silences around sectarian and sexual violence and hate speech by his party colleagues and ministers. The systematic destruction of democratic institutions is hard to ignore.

The B.J.P. and its Hindu nationalist affiliates are bent on refashioning India into a country that is increasingly hostile to secular, democratic, pluralist and minority Indians. The rape and murder of the little nomad girl has thus taken on a larger meaning, reflecting the struggle for the fundamental character of India.

An open letter to the prime minister signed by retired civil servants strongly protested “the agenda of division and hate your party … insidiously introduced into the grammar of our politics, our social and cultural life and even our daily discourse” and held him directly responsible for “this terrifying state of affairs.”

This battle for the soul and future of India is likely to get more violent in the lead-up to the national elections, scheduled for next year. Mr. Modi’s B.J.P. is braced for a desperate, ugly fight and has a long history of using religious polarization to electoral advantage.

It will be up to the citizens of India to fight for a tolerant, pluralist country and stop the degeneration of its civic and political life.

Mitali Saran (@mitalisaran) is a columnist for the Business Standard newspaper based in New Delhi.

o o o

Indian Express

Kathua chargesheet: In J-K child gangrape, rituals, a chilling invite and a police cover-up

The chargesheet states that Ram masterminded the conspiracy to kidnap and, later rape and kill the girl. It states that he made SPO Khajuria and the juvenile a “part of the conspiracy and assigned them tasks separately and individually”.

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | New Delhi | Updated: April 11, 2018

THE EIGHT-YEAR-OLD was gangraped thrice inside the Devasthan or prayer hall, after the mastermind had “performed rituals”. One of the rapists was called from Meerut to “satisfy his lust”. The girl was confined using sedatives, then strangled and hit on the head twice with a stone — “in order to make sure” she was dead. But not before another accused, a police personnel, asked the others to “wait because he wanted to rape” her one last time.

And all this, to “dislodge” a group of Bakherwal Muslim nomads from Rasana village in Kathua near Jammu.

These are just some of the chilling details in the 18-page chargesheet filed Monday by J&K Police’s Crime Branch against the eight accused in the rape and murder of the girl who went missing from near her house in Rasana on January 10 — her body was found seven days later in the forests nearby.

In the days that followed, the chargesheet states, the accused paid Rs 1.5 lakh as a bribe to local policemen who knew where the girl was kept and helped cover up the crime initially.

The killing had sparked outrage across J&K with the government handing over the case to the Crime Branch following protests from the Bakherwal community. The case took a communal turn in Kathua, where an outfit called Hindu Ekta Manch was set up by politicians in support of the accused. Among those who backed the Manch were Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, two BJP ministers in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Cabinet.
Kathua chargesheet: In J-K child gangrape, rituals, a chilling invite and a police cover-up The storeroom where the victim was allegedly kept, in Kathua near Jammu. (Express Photo: Nirupama Subramanian)

According to the chargesheet, the mastermind behind the rape and murder is retired revenue official Sanji Ram who is among the eight arrested, along with his son Vishal Jangotra and nephew, believed to be a juvenile.

The Crime Branch had also arrested Special Police Officers (SPOs) Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, a Rasana resident Parvesh Kumar, Assistant Sub Inspector Anand Dutta and Head Constable Tilak Raj in the case. Dutta and Raj were arrested on charges of attempting to destroy evidence.

According to the chargesheet, the girl’s father Mohd Yousuf lodged a complaint on January 12 at the Hiranagar station that his daughter who “had gone for grazing horses in the nearby forest at about 1230 hrs on January 10” had not returned. A FIR was lodged and police arrested Ram’s nephew, leading to allegations of a cover-up by the Bakherwal community. On January 22, the case was transferred to the Crime Branch.

The chargesheet states that Ram masterminded the conspiracy to kidnap and, later rape and kill the girl. It states that he made SPO Khajuria and the juvenile a “part of the conspiracy and assigned them tasks separately and individually”.

“…Deepak along with his friend Vikram went to Bitu Medical shop at Kottah Morh on January 7 evening and purchased one strip of Epitril 0.5 mg containing 10 tablets by showing the prescription of his uncle, who has a psychiatric problem and is under treatment. Although the medicine as per the prescription was not available with Bitu, he gave him Epitril 0.05 mg instead of the medicine written on the prescription,’’ the chargesheet states.

On the same day, it says, Ram asked his nephew to “kidnap” the girl who “often comes to the forests behind their house for grazing her horses”. Subsequently, the juvenile “shared the entire plan” worked out by Ram and Khajuria with “Parvesh Kumar@Mannu, his close friend, and asked for his help”.

On January 10, the juvenile saw the girl asking about her horses. He told her that “he had seen her horses and led her to the jungle”. “He also called accused Mannu. Sensing some trouble, the victim tried to flee but the juvenile stopped her by catching hold of her neck and covered her mouth with one of his hands and pushed her and she fell on the ground,” the chargesheet says.

“The victim fell unconscious and was raped by the juvenile (in the jungle). Thereafter, Mannu also attempted to rape her. They took her and kept her inside the Devasthan under the table over two plastic mats and then covered her,” it says.

On the next day, the chargesheet says, the “parents of the girl reached the Devasthan and enquired from… Ram about the whereabouts of her missing daughter who told them that she may have gone to some relative’s house”.

The prayer hall where the girl had been confined was kept locked by Ram. On the same day, according to the chargesheet, “Khajuria and the juvenile opened the Devasthan and again sedated the girl by pushing sedatives into her mouth and forced her to drink water subsequently”.

“On January 11, the juvenile informed another accused Vishal Jangotra about the kidnapping of the girl telephonically and asked him to return from Meerut in case he wanted to satisfy his lust,’’ the chargesheet says.

On January 12, it says, Jangotra reached Rasana at 6 am. “At around 8.30 am, the juvenile again went to the Devasthan and administered 3 sedative tablets to the girl while she was unconscious with empty stomach,’’ the chargesheet says.

By now, it says, a police party from the Hiranagar station, including Khajuria, had started searching for the girl. “Khajuria…came to the house of accused Sanji Ram with another police official namely Iftikar Wani… Khajuria advised the juvenile to ensure administering of sedatives to the victim in time,’’ the chargesheet says.

“During investigation it transpired that the accused Ram had already taken the accused police officials into confidence and settled the deal with them,” it says.

The chargesheet says that Head Constable Raj, who was part of the search party, had asked Ram to bribe the police team. On January 12, Ram sent Rs 1.5 lakh to Raj through the juvenile’s mother, it says.

On January 13, the chargesheet says, “…accused Vishal Jangotra, the juvenile and accused Ram went to the Devasthan where Ram performed rituals”. Later, it says, Jangotra “raped the nomad girl. Thereafter, the juvenile also raped the girl”.

After keeping the girl in the prayer hall for days, the chargesheet says, Ram told the other accused that it was time to kill her and “dump her (body) in the forest”.

“…the accused Mannu, Vishal and juvenile took the victim from the Devasthan to a nearby culvert… accused Khajuria told the juvenile to wait as he wanted to rape the girl before she is killed,’’ the chargesheet says.

Describing the murder, the chargesheet states: “After committing the barbaric act of rape on the minor victim, the accused Khajuria kept her neck on his left thigh and started applying force with his hands on her neck in order to kill her… Khajuria was unsuccessful in killing her, the juvenile killed her by pressing his knees against her back while strangulating the girl by applying force on both the ends of her chunni. Thereafter, the accused, in order to make sure that the victim is dead, hit her twice on head with a stone.’’

The body was dumped inside the prayer hall as the accused couldn’t find a vehicle to transport it. On January 15, the chargsheet says, Ram “directed” the other accused to “throw the body in the jungle’’.

o o o, April 12, 2018

How India reacts to the Kathua perversion will determine if the nation’s moral slide can be arrested

Rarely before has India so clearly faced its darkest side and refused to recognise it.

by Samar Halarnkar

There are, in the life of every nation, defining moments, thresholds or rubicons crossed, red lines violated, precedents set. One such defining moment is now unfolding in the town of Kathua (which is derived from a word in the local Dogri language apparently means “scorpions”) in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Here, in what they call the Crown of India, hundreds of townsfolk have thrown in their lot with eight men, including four police officers and a teenager, suspected of repeatedly raping, drugging, brutalizing and, finally, battering to death with a stone an eight-year-old girl whom they confined for days in a temple two months ago; police officers later tried to destroy forensic evidence by washing the girl’s clothes. Protest marches, with the national flag and two ministers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in attendance, wound through the town, lawyers screaming “Jai Shri Ram” tried to prevent the police from filing the chargesheet, the judge accepted the chargesheet only after superiors from the High Court intervened, and the town shut down on Wednesday in solidarity with the suspects. All the while, opposition political parties, including the supposedly secular Congress, and television’s talking and shouting heads ignored every new perversion and every move towards a new red line. On India’s normally angry, heaving streets, where thousands once raged against the rape of a young woman called Nirbhaya, “India’s daughter”, all was at peace.

There is only one reason men accused of such a heinous crime have widespread public support: like the majority of people in Kathua, the suspects are Hindu; the girl was Muslim.

Rarely before in 21st century India have such cruel and nakedly sectarian instincts been deployed to justify the gang rape and murder of a child. Rarely before has there been such an insult to India’s flag – it was used earlier this decade to drape the coffin of a Hindu who murdered Muslims in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh – its traditions and Constitution. Rarely before has India so obviously faced its darkest side and refused to recognise it.

In other words, there is every evidence that the national shame of Kathua is a defining moment. How the justice system, politicians, media and the public at large react from here on as the case comes to wider national attention – mainly by force of social media – may define how India reacts tomorrow to similar crimes and situations involving religion and children, and if it will hold on to its modern, founding ideals, at a time of growing religious stress.

Towards an apartheid state

Former foreign secretary Nirupama Menon Rao spoke for millions of Indians horrified by the death of Asifa, the daughter of a nomad Muslim family who was abducted while grazing horses. The rape was part of a plan by radicalised Hindus to drive Muslims from the area. The plotters represent many millions of such Hindus who have crossed many defining moments; and in doing so are reaching – or already have reached – the conclusion that India must eventually become an apartheid state, a Hindu rashtra where the Hindu has first claim to everything.

Indeed, on the day Hindu (and some Sikh) lawyers – they want the investigation, which is almost complete, handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation – tried to stop the Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch from handing over the chargesheet to the reluctant judge, a BJP legislator from Rajasthan urged Hindus to follow his lead and bar Muslims from their homes. In the cascade of depressing defining moments that have overwhelmed India this century – from killings in the name of love and religious purity to murders in the name of the holy cow – the Kathua case is particularly egregious because it involves a child, it involves a region where inter-religious relations are hanging by a thread, and it involves a nation more willing than ever to discard the rule of law.

There is no shortage of child rape in India. Every day there are reports, usually ignored, of infants and children violated, battered and, often, murdered. These rapes are sometimes so violent that there are calls for an automatic death sentence to the rapists. That demand was answered recently in three states, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, all ruled by the BJP, which is why it is ironic that the party has not just stayed silent about Asifa’s gruesome end but supported the alleged rapists and murderers.

Rule of the mob

Indeed, that is the difference between the horror of Kathua and other assaults on children – nowhere else and never have the perpetrators received official and public backing because they belong to a particular religion. The Kathua Bar Association in demanding a CBI inquiry argued that the state government had failed to “understand the sentiments of the people”.

This is an old and dangerous argument. Something must be done because the majority demands it. It is an argument used to justify a variety of Indian outrages, from the censorship of cartoons, films and books to the crippling of the justice system after pogroms, such as the Delhi anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots of 2002. Implicit in this “sentiments of the people” position is that the law should cede authority to the mob. In volatile, rebellious Kashmir – where alienation from Indian authority is arguably at unprecedented levels and Hindu-Muslim relations tenuous – this stand is particularly dangerous, pushing the entire region towards a threshold of intolerance best kept at a distance.

If they have the best interests of India at heart, the BJP and the prime minister can pull Kathua back from the precipice. It is not difficult: they need only say the right thing and let the law proceed without hindrance. The mob – as mobs often are – is cowardly. But to rein in the mob, the BJP must stand for what is just and lawful, qualities they have frequently abandoned when minorities are involved. It will mean a loss of face for the party among its radicalised supporters and the erosion of that vote bank. This may be too much to expect of a party whose spokespersons have been defending the suspects and questioning the investigation. Those, apparently, are Modi’s views of the matter.

As India’s main opposition party, the Congress ended its strategic and disgraceful silence on Wednesday. It is not too late for Gandhi to say that he cannot accept the outrage in Kathua. In so doing, he will provide much-needed evidence that his party can – still – live up to the secular principles on which it was founded and of which it so frequently boasts. If there ever was a time for Gandhi to show he can be a leader for all Indians, and not simply imitate Modi in temple visits, it is now.

As for the rest of us, if we cannot unilaterally and whole-heartedly demand justice for Asifa, if we do not accept her as India’s daughter, we are condemned to live another defining moment in the great, moral decline of India and join its slow slide towards the darkness.

Samar Halarnkar is the editor of IndiaSpend, a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit.

o o o

The Telegraph, April 15, 2018

Killing a child: Consolidating a communal common sense

Mukul Kesavan

Empathy doesn’t come easily to India’s prime minister. His silence after a number of Muslims were lynched by murderous vigilantes in the name of cow protection was broken only after gau goondas attacked Dalits since Dalits are part of the ’Hindu’ constituency that the Bharatiya Janata Party wants to consolidate. His more recent conspicuous silence was ended by a statement in a speech on April 13, the gist of which was later put out as two tweets by the prime minister’s Twitter account. Narendra Modi’s sensibilities didn’t allow him to specify the nature of the "recent incidents" to which he referred and of which, he declared, we, as a society, ought to be ashamed. We were left to infer that this careful euphemism referred to the rape of a young Dalit woman in Unnao and the death of her father in custody and the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Kathua, Jammu.

The uninformed reader would have never guessed from the prime minister’s tweets the extent of his party’s involvement in these "recent incidents". The main accused in the Unnao case is a BJP legislator who remained at large in a state run by the BJP’s star chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, till the high court demanded that he be arrested. In Jammu, two BJP ministers addressed a demonstration organized by the Hindu Ekta Manch in defence of the men (policemen amongst them) charged with raping and murdering the eight-year-old girl. Inside the scope of a tweet, the prime minister went to some lengths to deflect attention from the specific contexts of these atrocities. Incidents like this, he wrote, "wherever they occur in the country" challenged our humanity.

At the same time as he generalized India’s rape problem to skate over his party’s unwillingness to move against the accused in Unnao and Kathua, he also tried to minimize his own prolonged indifference to these atrocities. His first tweet referred to the incidents "...which have been in public discussion the past two days..." as if to suggest that these had just come to his notice. The rape in Unnao occurred in the summer of 2017. The girl in Jammu was raped and killed in January this year. Her brutalization and death made the headlines last week because the Hindu Ekta Manch and Jammu’s high court bar association, urged on by two BJP state ministers, came out in defence of the rape accused. The Hindu Ekta Manch had been agitating for the release of the special police officer arrested for her rape and murder since February. For a BJP prime minister to suggest that two grotesque crimes committed in two states governed singly or in coalition by his party were news to him amounts to either an abdication of responsibility or a form of deflection. The prime minister’s belated tweets were damage control dressed up as concern.

But the prime minister is right in thinking there is a larger sickness in our body politic flagged by the eight-year-old’s horrifying death. The BJP is the vanguard of the vicious majoritarianism that threatens basic law and order and ordinary civility in this country today, but it represents something larger than itself. It wouldn’t be in office if it didn’t. The little girl’s death, its premeditation, its motives and the concerted bid to defend the policemen and civilians accused of her murder, show us the growing concert between majoritarian politicians and a communalized civil society.

The bandh called by the Hindu Ekta Manch and the massive support shown by local lawyers for men accused of rape and murder testifies to the popularity of anti-Muslim feeling in Jammu. The chargesheet alleges that four policemen, a retired civil servant, a juvenile and a temple priest conspired to abduct the eight-year-old girl, to gang rape her in a temple, to strangle her and then to bludgeon her to death because they wanted to violently dislodge her pastoral Bakharwal community from its settlements in Kathua. The Hindu Ekta Manch and Jammu’s lawyers dismissed the chargesheet as a prejudiced narrative constructed by a Muslim investigating officer, a motivated attempt to disrupt communal harmony in Kathua where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians had, according to them, traditionally lived in peace.

Ironically, the four demands made by the Jammu High Court’s bar association when it called for a bandh on April 11 support the chargesheet’s claim that the girl’s death was born out of a communal determination to purge the area of Muslims. Each of these four demands peremptorily orders the State to help Jammu’s Hindus show Muslims their place. The first asks that the Rohingya refugees settled in Jammu be thrown out simply because the lawyers suspected that they were behind the stone-pelting of Indian security forces. The second demand was for more summary legal action against tribal people (the Muslim Bakharwals are a scheduled tribe) allegedly because they encroached on land. The third asked for more vigorous action against cattle transporters in the cause of gau raksha. The final demand was that the little girl’s case be transferred to the CBI because the local investigation was headed by a Muslim who had communalized the issue by alleging that the rape was committed in a temple which was obviously false because such a thing was inconceivable.

The only common factor in this malignant manifesto is that each demand targets Muslims for the greater good of Hindu civil society. What do refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine province have in common with a murdered eight-year-old Bakharwal girl? The fact that the Rohingya and the Bakharwals are both Muslim. The second demand — the prosecution of encroaching tribals — actually supports the chargesheet’s allegation that there was a concerted attempt to expel the Bakharwals from Kathua. The allegation that the state government had been slack in its pursuit of cattle traders and the insistence that the local investigation into the girl’s murder was incapable of being impartial because it was headed up by a Kashmiri Muslim are evidence of the consolidation of a communal common sense in Jammu.

The reason Rohingyas live exiled lives in Jammu and elsewhere in the world is because a thousand miles southeast of Jammu, Myanmar’s Buddhist majoritarians defined northern Rakhine’s Muslims out of political existence. This is what this concerted campaign by Jammu’s lawyers, the Hindu Ekta Manch and their BJP cheerleaders amounts to: the de-legitimization of Muslims, the active refusal to accept them as neighbours, citizens or refugees. The evil rape and murder of a child, the attempt to expel Muslim refugees, are some of the ways in which this monstrous process can play out.

The prime minister said in his first tweet that "incidents like this, wherever they occur in the country shock our sense of humanity". He has this exactly the wrong way round: it is when we lose our sense of humanity, when we dehumanize others, that ’incidents’ like this ’occur’. The eight-year-old girl died because her killers, premeditatedly, in cold blood, decided that she wasn’t human. The prime minister got one thing right; there are hundreds of millions of Indians who are shocked and ashamed by her death. His most urgent task is to address those of his supporters in Jammu and elsewhere, who aren’t.

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India: Selected References on the Kathua and Unnao Brutalities

1. An 8-Year-Old’s Rape and Killing Fuels Religious Tensions in India

2. Child’s rape, killing in India mire in religious politics

3. Kathua rape case: Chargesheet filed by Jammu and Kashmir Police

4. Asifa, Betrayed Over And Over

5. ’Kathua rape-murder: Asifa’s family flees village’

6. Unnao Rape Case: What Has Happened So Far - A Timeline

7. Unnao rape case: Here’s everything you need to know

8. India ruling party lawmaker arrested on rape allegation

9. Kathua rape and murder case: Full text of chargesheet filed by
Jammu and Kashmir Police

10. Kathua rape, murder case was a plot to dislodge Muslim Bakarwal
community: J&K Police chargesheet

11. Jammu and Kashmir: Can the Forest Rights Act protect tribal
communities in Jammu from eviction?

12. ‘Tricolour in hands of Jammu youth could become AK-47’: Jammu Bar
Association chief to govt

13. Using our national flag to defend a rapist — now that’s
anti-national | By Barkha Dutt

14. Kathua victim’s mother: ‘The girl who loved horses, meadows… now
in a lonely grave’

15. Kathua, Unnao: Shame on us | Pratap Bhanu Mehta

16. The Disquieting Nature of BJP’s Response to Violence Against Women
| Radha Kumar

17. The Real Instinct Lurking Behind the Kathua Horror | Aproorvanand

18. No More ’Calmly Sailing By’, Not After What Happened in Kathua |Anuradha Roy

19. What a child’s death tells us | Tavleen Singh

20. Kathua rape: Ensure justice, UN to govt; BJP-PDP alliance under threat?

21. Kathua Rape: Exposing a Viral List of Lies From Ground Zero

22. An Open Letter to Yogi Adityanath

23. Killing a child: Consolidating a communal common sense

24. The Little Girl of Kathua

25. The Last Five Days of Asifa

26. Sunday of protests as thousands across India demand justice in
Kathua and Unnao rape cases