NEW DELHI: One year has passed by, but the family of the eight-year-old Kathua rape and murder case victim still lives with the horror of the past, unable to get over the brutal end that their child met. Recently, the family delayed their journey to Kathua and were apprehensive of proceeding further. For three months, the victim’s family had stopped 45 kilometres short of their destination in Samba. Now, as they have reached their home in Rasana village, they are facing a “social boycott.”
Speaking on the topic, Mubeen Farooqi, lawyer of the victim, said, “The family is facing social boycott in the village. Nobody talks to them. They are not given leaves to feed their animals. They have to walk miles every day to buy leaves. They are having a real difficult time.”
In Kathua, the family owns a pucca house where they were living when the brutal rape and murder took place. The victim belonged to the Bakharwal (nomadic) community. Historically, the Gujjar-Bakarwals are a pastoral nomadic ethnic group, majorly comprising of Sunni Muslims, who follow a migratory pattern of life.
In Jammu, the community is mostly concentrated in the areas such as Rajouri, Poonch, Kathua, and Reasi. The community was categorised as Scheduled Tribe in April 1991. The family of the victim lived in Rasana village when the incident took place. Rasana village is majorly home to Hindu dogras of Jammu who sell leaves and fodder to Bakharwals when they migrate downhill.
Almost an entire year has passed since the gruesome rape and murder of the girl in Kathua (Jammu province), which has enraged the entire nation. The way the entire episode unfolded, brought to the fore the glaring communal divide at play and the politics around it. If one goes by the charge-sheet, the motive behind the rape and the murder “was to instil fear and dislodge the nomadic tribe from the forest areas of the Jammu province.” As per the charge-sheet, the main accused, Sanji Ram, had provoked his nephew to launch an attack on the Bakharwal community who had earlier thrashed them.
Farooqi said: “We are hoping that by March, the case will draw to a close. We are hopeful that the accused will be strictly punished and also the powerful men protecting them.”
Notably, the perpetrators in the case were protected by the ruling Right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Commentators believe the Kathua rape case drew a lukewarm response, that too after three months after the heinous crime took place, as the entire nation was divided on communal lines and the case was used as a platform by the BJP to strengthen their hold in the Jammu province of Jammu and Kashmir. Two BJP leaders even participated in a rally in support of the rape accused, leading to an outrage across the country.