Collective Conscience or Collective Immorality?

Collective Conscience or Collective Immorality?


May 28, 2018 • 773

Shopian gangrape and murder victims

Nine years have gone by and the justice still eludes kin of Asiya and Neelofar with culprits enjoying the state patronage. If it is not a dark blot on the so-called democratic credentials of a country what is?

On a sunny late afternoon on the 29th day of May 2009, two young women left home to tend to their family’s apple orchard at Bongam in Shopian district. Next morning, their mutilated bodies were found in nearby Rambia stream.

Asiya, a 17-year-old high school student, had been badly beaten. Blood streamed from her nose and a deep wound in her forehead. She and her 22-year-old sister-in-law, Neelofar Jan, had been gang-raped before their deaths.

As soon as the news spread about the incident, Kashmir Valley erupted in protest. Angry demonstrators demanding punishment for the perpetrators and justice for the victims filled the streets across Kashmir.

The New York Times reported the incident in graphic detail:

Nilofar and Asiya Jan had walked to the orchard around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, May 29. When Shakeel Ahmad Ahanger, Nilofar’s husband, came home at 7:30 p.m., the two had not yet returned. He went to search for them but found no trace.

By 9:30 p.m. he was frantic. He went to the police station, and along with several officers scoured their route, including the shallow bed of the Rambi River. The Police called off the search at 2:30 a.m., urging Mr. Ahanger to return at daybreak. After his dawn prayers, he went back to the bridge with Police officials.

“Look, there is your wife,” the local Police chief said to Mr. Ahanger, pointing at a body lying prone on some rocks in a dry patch in the middle of the stream.

He rushed to her, but she was dead. Her dress had been hiked up, exposing her midriff. Her body was bruised. “I knew immediately something very bad had happened to her,” Mr. Ahanger said. His sister was found a mile downstream. Their bodies were taken for autopsies, but the cause of death seemed clear to residents who have long lived in the shadow of the security forces.

“Two girls disappear next to an armed camp,” said Abdul Hamid Deva, a member of a committee of elders set up in response to the killings. “Their bodies then mysteriously appear in a river next to the camp. It does not take much imagination to know what is likely to have happened.”

Town residents gathered at the hospital for the autopsy results. Initially, a doctor said the Women drowned. But the crowd rejected the conclusion; the stream was barely ankle deep. Residents pelted the hospital with stones. The second team of doctors was called in. They confirmed that the Women had been raped.

“What was done to these Women even animals could not have done,” the gynaecologist who examined the Women told the crowd, weeping as she spoke, according to witnesses.

Two men who had been at a shop near the bridge would later tell investigators they saw a Police truck parked on the bridge and heard Women crying for help. –The New York Times, August 15, 2009

The dastardly crime, and allegations of a bungled attempt by the Local Police to cover it up, set off months of street protests in Kashmir but powers never succumbed to these protests and justice was never delivered.

It goes without saying that the word justice in Kashmir has been often mocked, molested and murdered. From the day one findings in such cases here have been often concocted, interpolated and fabricated through the so-called Investigating agencies. To wait for justice in Kashmir is to wait for Godot. Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckets, in which two characters, wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never arrives. Those who have been here go from pillar to post with the hope that justice will be served to them and the culprits will be brought to book.

Nine years have gone by and the justice still eludes kin of Asiya and Neelofar with culprits enjoying the state patronage. If it is not a dark blot on the so-called democratic credentials of a country what is?

Although, it is not only Asiya and Neelofar but thousands of other Kashmiri Women like the victims of Kunan-Poshpora mass rape and those who have lost their spouses and children through enforced disappearances and so on. Justice has remained confined only to discussion and seminar halls here.

What happened to the judicial proof by Justice Muzafer Jan? Where are the culprits? Where is justice? We, the people of Kashmir feel are wary of government ordered probes as we know how in Kashmir facts are being distorted and videos are being doctored?

The year 2012 witnessed whole India standing for rape victims like Nirbhaya and Damini. We saw how the so-called “Collective Conscience” was protested and justice delivered. But when the daughters of Kashmir are being raped and murdered at will under the very nose of the state machinery India turns blind, deaf and dumb.The so-called “Collective Conscience” becomes “Collective Immorality”.

The way judicial system works in Kashmir is also questionable. It’s time that it shuns the approach of selective justice and give up the double standards.

Last year the Supreme Court awarded death sentence to four convicts of Nirbhaya case and the sentence was hailed by Kashmiris. But when will these courts see a Nirbhaya in Asiya Jan or Neelofar of Kashmir?

Is it because Kashmir has not yet been accepted in the wider body of Indian nation state? As the law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad aptly said: “The Supreme Court’s verdict in the Nirbhaya gangrape case is a victory for the rule of law”. Not only Mr Prasad, the controversial BJP leader Subramanian Swami also gave a thumbs up for the SC verdict. According to him,” it was very tragic incident, which has blotted the civilisation of India. But can Mr. Swami and Prasad justify the same treatment for Nirbhaya’s of Kashmir?.

And what about that little innocent Asifa of kathua? How this little flower was gangraped and mutilated inside a temple by the brutes who receive patronage of Swami’s and Prasad’s because she was a Kashmiri.

Selective justice brings only shame to India and it is not far when this approach will begin haunting its ‘Collective Conscience”.

Already reports have started surfacing that point out the direction India is headed to.

The cases of murder, rapes, and kidnapping have seen a sharp rise across India. Reports keep India at very low ranks in the safety index. As per reports, “Nearly 68,000 rape cases were registered across the country during 2009-11 but only 16,000 rapists were sentenced to prison, presenting a dismal picture of conviction of sexual offenders.

It is also being pointed out that the rape is being used as a weapon of war in Kashmir. Rape is used as a means of “Psychological Warfare” to humiliate the restive polulation and muzzle their genuine voice. According to UNICEF, “systematic rape is often used as a weapon of war in ethnic cleansing”. Also, Amnesty International argues that in “modern conflicts rape is used deliberately as a military strategy”. It further states, that “it is used for the purpose of conquering territory by expelling the population there from, decimating the remaining civilians by destroying their links of affiliations, by the spread of AIDS, and by eliminating cultural and religious traditions”.

These arguments indicate how occupier tries to subdue occupied with different methods and rape is one of them.

Author is associated with the Department of English, University of Kashmir