Indian people are outraged, Indian streets are inundated with people, Indian media has turned frenzy. India, overall, is boiling with anger following the gruesome gang-rape of 23-year-old paramedical student that shook New Delhi on the night of December 16. This brutal crime deserves strong condemnation from one and all. People from different walks- politicians, bureaucrats, intellectual, film stars, rich or poor- condemned this crime which is considered as one of the grave crimes.
This unfortunate incident reminded Kashmiri people of the gruesome countless ‘reported’ rape cases like 1991 Kunan Poshpora mass rape, Jigarpora rape case, Channapora rape case and 2009 double murder and rape case. As we know, in Kunan Poshpora, almost the entire village— women aged from 18-80— were raped by the Fourth Battalion of the Rajasthan Rifles of the Indian Army that continued all night until well into the following morning. And in the 2009 Shopian rape case, the two women of the same family were raped and then murdered ‘allegedly’ by the Indian Army. So does anyone see any difference between the two gruesome incidents? Can we ‘condemn’ only one incident and ‘justify’ the other or turn blind eye to another? Can we confirm one as ‘gruesome rape’ and dismiss the other as “fabrication”? Now let’s see how it was handled both by the important pillars of Indian democracy.
INDIAN MEDIA TRAIL:
We know that the Indian media loves to ‘play the role of policemen and judge’. They love to deliver their verdict in no time; love to jump to the conclusion even when the incident is not over; little caring for what their sloppy “media trail” would carry on people and even on the process of judiciary.
Talking about the Delhi rape case, we saw it qualifying for the headlines for days both in print as well as on electronic media. We saw many renowned faces of Indian media channels reporting the unfortunate incident directly from the ground almost the whole day. Not only was the event reported as it happened, analyzed right there on the ground but even suggestions as how to deal with such cases were sought from the angry protestors; also rejecting the statement of Indian Home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde who equated ‘angry protestors’ with ‘Maoists.’
But did we see the same kind of painstaking coverage either in 1991 mass rape case or 2009 double murder and rape case? How many times have these unfortunate cases of Kashmir hit the headlines of Indian media? How many times has it come on the front page of Indian national newspapers? How many times has Indian media tried to become the bridge between Kashmiri people and its government?
India media which is supporting the protests passionately against Delhi gang rape is believed by people in Kashmir to rub salt to their wounds.
Talking about the Kunan Poshpora mass rape, it shall be recalled that Press Council of India (PCI), which aims to preserve the freedom of the press, led by eminent journalist BG Verghese investigated the matter. Wajahat Habibullah, the then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and India’s former Chief Information Commissioner, in his book “My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light,” writes, “The Verghese Committee, appointed in an effort at damage control rather than because of any sincere interest in reaching the truth, concluded that the complaint was ‘invented’. This ended any further pursuit of the investigation” while adding “and led to an abiding resentment among the villagers in the area, particularly women.” Then how could the same media say the whole village ‘concocted’ mass rape stories? Don’t you know that rapes are not a matter of jesting? Don’t they have any realization that even debate about these incidents sends chill down the spine?
The scars of Kunan Poshpora incident were not even over when 2009 Shopian double murder and gang-rape took place. Even after witnessing strong resentment among Kashmiri people against the Kunan Poshpora rape ‘unfair’ verdict handed down by PCI, the Indian media didn’t care to give Shopian case any impartial coverage? How many Indian media icons came to cover the incident which shook Kashmir that time? Instead Praveen Swami, a noted journalist, writes “apart from Chief Minister Omar Abdullah… politicians in the PDP, and among the secessionists, who cynically cashed in on the deaths to further their agenda must also be held to account.” Did Indian media suspect the Delhi rape to be a ‘political gimmick’ or suspect it to be at least ‘consensual?’ (Don’t take me amiss that I am suggesting any of the two).
It would be pertinent to quote Rural Affairs Editor of the The Hindu, P. Sainath, who says “… and then there are top political leaders who directly own vast media empires, and who can hold ministerial portfolios affecting these domains while running their media fiefdoms” (December 2010: India’s lobbying Scandal)
In Delhi Rape case, we saw the political parties- both ruling and opposition- rightly condemning this heinous crime and ensuring speedy trail. Press Conferences were called, parliament witnessed massive uproar over the issue. Also we saw the Delhi Chief Minister crying over the unfortunate incident on Television while being interviewed.
Now going back to the Kunan Poshpora case, the Army denied allegations, and the government determined that evidence was insufficient. Whereas, Wajahat Habibullah, writes “there was sufficient cause for a more detailed inquiry, so I reported to the Governor.” In the very next line, he says “When the state government published my report, however, it deleted my expression of misgivings, giving a clean chit to the Army.” (Bold added). However, Human Rights Law Network, a collective of lawyers and social activists said in their report that the incident in Kunan Poshpora was “the worst of the human rights violation.” Period!!!
Coming to the 2009 Shopian double murder and rape case, first of all no case was registered for as many as five long days. And as Sanjay Kak, a Kashmir Pandit, an independent documentary film-maker, writes in 2010 “the travesty of the investigation into last year’s Shopian incident involved innumerable bungled procedures, and threw up many glaring contradictions, till the government of India roped in the CBI to put a lid on it. They promptly concluded that it was a case of death by drowning. (In a stream less than a foot of water).” Prem Shankar Jha writes “what was worse, on the plea of awaiting the findings of the FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory), they (Omar Abdullah government) categorically refused to entertain a First Information Report (FIR) of rape and murder from the family members and allegedly beat them up and threw them out of the police station.” Although the medical test confirmed rape and murder, the police denied such an assault saying “the two had died due to drowning.”
Due to the strong protests, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was called to investigate the entire case. CBI few months later in its report said “22-year-old Neelofar and her sister-in-law Aasiya,17 had drowned” but also “gave a clean chit to four police officials in the case.” It must be also noted that CBI indicted 13 people including six doctors and five lawyers “for misleading the investigation and fabricating evidence about rape and murder.”
As we know the top politicians in Delhi wept bitterly over the Delhi incident clearly showing sympathy towards the victim, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah on 1 June 2009, matter-of-factly, said, “that the police was working on the hypothesis that the women may have died through misadventure — accident, drowning or both.” Therefore he, by implication, ruled out rape and murder.
‘MEN IN UNIFORM’ TRAIL:
In Delhi Rape case, the Delhi police came up with the new measures to be taken to ensure zero tolerance over the crimes on women. Police nabbed five of the six accused in no time, and succeed in nabbing the sixth shortly. While all the six accused were already arrested, but the protests did not stop, as people were/are still angry over the increasing crime rate that has gripped Delhi and say “enough is enough”. No doubt police resorted to teargas shelling, water cannons injuring scores of protestors. But they didn’t cast aspersion on the victim’s character, at least. However, when we recount the incident of Shopian double rape and murder case, we saw the so-called Indian Security forces using brute force, killing many innocent protestors. No sympathy was shown to victim’s family and to Kashmiri people.
And to rub salt into the wounds of victims family, Haseeb Mughal, Superintendent of Police at that time who headed Commission investigating team cast aspersions on Neelofar, Aasiya. In its report, as AG Noorani, India eminent lawyer and political analyst, writes, “the aspersion is, at once, groundless, irrelevant to the inquiry, and contradicted by his own findings of rape and murder.”
LAST WORDS: Since India considers itself to be the largest democracy in the world, it should do justice to all the cases awaiting justice irrespective of, using the cliché, the color, creed, cast, region and religion and yes irrespective of ‘impunity they enjoy’ on ‘humanitarian grounds.’ As people in Delhi are convulsing with anger against the Delhi rape case, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani have also condemned the Delhi rape case and advocated stringent action against the culprits. So it is the high time for people in New Delhi to demand justice with the same fervor for all the Kashmiri rape cases, not excluding Kunan Poshpora mass rape and Shopian double rape and murder, who are long awaiting justice and demand the “proceedings from here,” as Praveen Swami, writes, “be carried out with complete transparency to avoid further muddying of the waters.” So that the culprits, who are still at large, be brought to book! Let peace prevail!