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Beyond Misogyny. Untangling Kathua And Unnao: A Response To Taslima Nasreen

Taslima Nasreen is wrong. The rapes in Kathua and Unnao were about more than misogyny.

Taslima Nasreen is not alone in wondering why the religious identity of the raped and murdered child of Kathua is being invoked while discussing the crime. Similarly, she fails to understand why the political affiliation of the accused is being referred to in the case of the rape of a girl at Unnao. Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, in this case, are united by the thread of brutalisation of their girls.

Taslima would like us to believe that it was only misogyny which drove the men at Unnao and Kathua to rape the girls. For her, the fact that the accused in Unnao crime being a leader of the BJP is not relevant. He did not rape the girl because he was a leader of the BJP, she says. She is absolutely right. But can we ignore the fact that the complaint of the victim was callously ignored simply because the accused is a leader of the party which is presently ruling Uttar Pradesh? And the party is BJP. The source of power that the accused wields is BJP.

Had it not been so, her father would not have to pay with his life for the audacity of the girl and her family to go public with their complaint. Had the accused been only an ordinary citizen like the victim, probably the police and the administration would have reacted differently. In this case, despite the public demonstration of the aggrieved woman and her family, neither the police nor the state government moved. It was only after the intervention of the High Court of the State forced the police to act. It was obviously the assurance of the patronage of the Party and the government which emboldened the accused and encouraged the police to victimise the woman and her family further. That the administration and the government did their best to protect the accused is so evident that only the eyes of Taslima Nasreen can miss it.

As in the case of Unnao, the facts don’t tell you everything about the horror the eight-year-old child had to go through in Kathua. What happens before and after the ‘fact’ is crucial to comprehend its meaning. Let us start with the after in the Kathua ‘incident’. The girl child could not be traced even after seven days of her disappearance. Nothing abnormal about that, we could say. After a long string of failed searches, the police subsequently found her dead body. Even the normal investigation started only after an agitation by the members of the community to which the child belonged. When the post-mortem report came and the special police team started its investigation, the trouble began. The leader of the police team is a Hindu. But the presence of a Muslim in his team who was chosen by him only was made an issue. So, first time, a religious angle was introduced in this case not by the victims but by the supporters of the accused.

We are talking about the ‘after’. When the police team finalised its report and was about to submit it in the court, the supporters and members of the community of the accused decided the report was biased against Hindus, that the credentials of police team were doubtful and there was an anti-Hindu bias in the whole report.

Please remember, this allegation had not been made by the family of the victim. They had not expressed suspicion against anybody. The agitation after the recovery of her body did not say that she was killed because she was a Muslim. The investigation revealed a conspiracy hatched by a man who is held to be deeply resentful of the Muslim Bakarwal community. The report connected the dots and presented a chilling narrative— How a long-nursed hatred against a community can lead one to commit an unspeakable crime!

This was only a report of the police and not a judgment of the court. It is possible that the case built by the police falls apart in the court and the accused are found not guilty. But the lawyers of Kathua and Jammu decided that it was a part of an anti-Hindu conspiracy. They created a ruckus in the court and later led a violent protest against the police. It is true that the accused did not commit the act on the command of the ruling BJP. But the two Hindu BJP ministers thought it necessary to intervene and demonstrate their support to the accused. They even trashed their own government. A minister of the central government justified the agitation of the lawyers of Kathua and Jammu calling it an expression of popular sentiment in the area.

Let us continue with the ‘after’. Another character makes her entry in the drama. The counsel, herself a Hindu, appearing on behalf of the family of the murdered child was threatened, called names and declared anti-Hindu. She felt so scared that she had to move the Supreme Court praying for her safety. The court had to order the State government to ensure security both for the family and the lawyer.

Now the ‘before’. It can also be taken as a coincidence that the child belonged to the nomadic Bakarwal community. It can also be another coincidence that a campaign of resentment against the community was going on in the area. Fear was spread among the local Hindu population that the Bakarwals would gradually outnumber them. It is again a coincidence that the Rohingya refugees were being presented as a threat to the region and the nation. They were portrayed as terrorists.

The before and after came together in the agitation (led by the lawyers)  after the report by the police was filed. The demands for eviction of Rohingays, the change in the rules for land use by tribals and the transfer of this particular case from the J&K police to the CBI were clubbed together. This is how the brutalisation of the little girl acquired religious angularity.

Taslima is right that rape is a secular act. But she must ask why did it have to be a Hindu Ekta Manch to lead the protest against the police investigation and why the Manch thought it fit to mix this demand with the other “anti-Muslim” demands!

Taslima is only partially right that there is no war going on between the Hindus and Muslims of India. Since she has received kind words from the BJP and the RSS, she cannot see that Muslims are under siege in India.

How easily can they (Muslims) be isolated from the secular processes can be seen through the fact that the only Muslim dominated State in India has been forced by agitation to ensure that no Muslim is a part of the prosecution team for this case. It has been announced to the shame of India that the prosecution team has persons with religious neutrality. Two Sikhs have been chosen to represent the State before the court. It is important for the State in India to keep away from Muslimness to be seen as impartial and not anti-Hindu. We rue our fall as a people. It is sadly strange that even after being a fiction writer, Taslima Nasreen cannot share this grief.

(Apoorvanand is a professor at the Hindi Department of University of Delhi.)

Taslima’s piece to which Apoorvanand responds is here.

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