Relooking at the Kathua Case : Religious Extremism

It is a beautiful sight. To witness the glory of festivals, energy of disciples and the sheer faith in almighty. In our country religion maketh a man. It is the driving force of the economy.
Religion- the most powerful drug- can leave one inebriated for life. And this concept is so deeply ingrained in the mind of the majority, that since centuries it has been the source of all the malignant conspiracies and outrageous crimes. The Asifa Bano- Kathua rape case is the outcome of desire for religious supremacy. It is not a vile act, of a hormonally driven psychopath. It is a puzzle of religion and politics, and how both can infuse the feeling of uncontrollable power and authority.


On 10th January’18, an 8-year old Asifa Bano, resident of Rasana village, near Kathua Jammu & Kashmir went missing. After a one week hunt, Asifa’s father found her body. Her face bruised black and blue, eyes swollen and body battered. She was raped and murdered. What seemed as another act of sexual violence, was actually an act of protest by the Hindu-majority community of Kathua district. It was revealed in a 16-page charge sheet by the Crime Branch, that it was an attempt to remove the nomadic Gujjars and Bakarwals of the Muslim community. The local police was removed from the case after suspicions of improper and partial investigation.

The photo of the innocent Asifa circulated across social media and news, created mass uproar in the country. Right from celebrities, reporters, activists and commoners, everyone voiced their angst and shock. The #justiceforAsifa became a mass form of social protest. Asifa’s family was also threatened on trying to bury her body in Kathua, and has to bury it in a neighboring village. The whole act triggered an outrage in Jammu province, creating uneasy situations for Bakarwals, with increasing intimidation by Hindutva groups. But there was also an increasing pressure on the government to arrest the culprits. Student communities were holding candlelight marches across the city.

The Accused:

The government and police officials affirmed to look into the matter at a priority level. At first a 15-year old was arrested, who had confessed his crime. Later, with a detailed enquiry and post-mortem reports 7 other suspects were brought to light. Retired revenue official Sanji Ram- the master-mind, had planned this out in order to create fear and dislodge the Bakarwals. He was in-charge of the temple, where Asifa was abducted and raped. The 15-year old, was none other than his nephew. He was majorly involved in the case and accused of abducting, drugging and harassing the girl. Another major culprit is Special Police Officer (SPO) Deepak Khajuria, who supported the whole act. Parvesh Kumar- juvenile’s friend and Vishal Jangotra- Sanji Ram’s son, are the other two prime suspects of this case. In a recently conducted DNA test, it has been found that the 15-year old claiming to be a minor is actually 19-years old, and will be prosecuted as an adult. Investigating officers head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, have too been accused of taking bribe and destroying evidence in the case, according to the chargesheet.

National Scenario:

While the country was burning with rage to punish the accused, there were also rallies happening in favour of the accused. Formed in January, the right-wing Hindu Ekta Manch carried out protest in Jammu to demand for release of SPO Deepak Khajuria. Two BJP senior member of the ruling- coalition party i.e Lal Singh and Chandra Prakash Ganga, were also a part of this protest and later resigned due to political instability. The tricolor Indian flag was made a symbol for the protest, and this evoked severe reaction from Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. She said that she was “appalled by the marches & protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations, this is nothing short of desecration. The accused has been arrested & the law will follow its course.”

A candlelight march was conducted at India Gate in Delhi, which was led by Indian National Congress President Rahul Gandhi. No comments or action by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had become a new political controversy. Trial of the case began on 16th April 2018. The party in power in Jammu and Kashmir is a coalition government BJP-PDP and the crime branch is the investigations wing of the J&K police, which takes its orders from the state government. Due to growing backlash, and political insecurity, Asifa’s family pleaded to the Supreme Court that the case be move to the court of Pathankot, and be followed through there. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has directed that trials be held in-camera, be fast tracked and conducted on a day-to-day basis to avoid delay.

Asifa’s case clearly brings out the labyrinth of religion and politics in our country. While the case still awaits the dawn of justice, the daily legal proceedings are a ray of hope that justice will soon be served. The matter has to be dealt with utmost care, keeping in mind the intricate details and facets of the case.

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