Kashmir’s Silence Over Rape: Why is Kashmir so quiet over the horrific Bandipora incest-rape-suicide case?

Srinagar: In a grisly incident, a girl from Aragam village in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir committed suicide on April 13 — after being allegedly raped by her father.

As per the police, the girl consumed poison. She was rushed to hospital, where she succumbed. The accused was arrested and the victim’s body was handed over to the family after post-mortem. Amid mourning at the bereaved family’s residence in north Kashmir, the deceased’s uncle told media persons that he was apparently aware for quite long that his niece was getting repeatedly raped by his brother.

But then, the middle-aged man had been silent.

According to the deceased’s sister, her father had been raping the victim for years, but she was unable to reveal it to anyone for fear of getting killed.

The victim’s sister, a schoolgirl, had even more shocking details to share with media persons.

She said the father was making advances at her as well.

“I had told my grandfather about all this — but he asked me to not to reveal it to anyone as it would bring shame for the entire family,” she said. And broke down.

The incident brings out the incestuous monsters living in Kashmir.

But, their horror notwithstanding, such incidents of sexual abuse get generally downplayed in Kashmir — the only thing that largely dominates minds in the restive region is the “Kashmir cause” and ways and means exercised to resolve it.

From prominent faces to local media houses, many well-meaning voices here prefer silence on such incidents of sexual abuse.

The silent society

Let alone reporting on the Bandipora incident, the April 14 edition of Greater Kashmir — one of the leading Srinagar-based English newspapers — has not even mentioned it, for reasons best known to its editorial board. Tall leaders like the Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, on the other hand, are equally silent. Clearly, for Geelani, sexual abuse doesn’t matter much — unless it finds a link to the “Kashmir cause”. In 2009, after the double rape-and-murder case in Shopian, the people had gone for Valley-wide protests. That time, asking the people of Shopian alone to continue with the shutdown, Syed Ali Geelani asked other districts to resume normal life — in the larger interests of the “Kashmir cause”.

Just a year prior to the Shopian case, in 2008, the very same Geelani was spearheading Kashmir-wide shutdowns against the allotment of 800 kanals of forestland to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, till the controversial order was revoked after weeks of unrest.

Geelani’s varied responses to the Shopian tragedy and the forestland cases had a perceptible message — the land issue needs a collective response. Rape and murder of such vulnerable girls can wait.

And now, the Kashmiri version of Dungeon Dad has added to the list of downplayed stories.

Given the cold response, victims of such sexual abuse mostly feel utterly disheartened.

In February 2018, 12 years after a sex scandal that allegedly involved the rich and powerful of Kashmir, the victim, who was also a prime witness in the case, had approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court, claiming that the CBI forced her to depose against the accused in 2006. She reportedly pleaded for the trial court proceedings to be stayed and directed to re-examine her as a prosecution witness.

In 2006, residents of Habba Kadal locality in Srinagar had approached local police with a video that purportedly showed a victim nude. While the police filed a case, the state High Court transferred the probe to the CBI. A number of influential people, including two ministers, some top officers and others, were initially accused in the case. The trial was subsequently shifted to Chandigarh and cross-examination of the victim concluded on April 27, 2007.

But by the time the victim had mustered up the courage to speak her heart out, most of those accused were already out on bail or had been acquitted.

In another such case, a self-styled Kashmiri godman — accused of raping at least four girls — was acquitted when police failed to prove the allegations. In March 2017, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court acquitted Gulzar Ahmad Bhat alias Gulzar Peer, who was nabbed on charges of raping girl students at his seminary in Budgam in 2013.

The court had come down heavily on the police for “miserably” failing to prove the case. The court pointed out that the reason for the delay in filing of an FIR and the failure to prove the seizure of evidence from Gulzar’s home turned “lethal” for the case.

A rigorous media campaign, coupled with intensive public support, could have kept the police and othera concerned on their toes in such sensitive cases.

But then, the dirty underbelly remains largely hidden in the larger interest of the “Kashmir cause”.

In the latest, while Kashmir’s head priest and separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has condemned the Bandipora incident, his concern does not extend much beyond his customary tweet.

Even otherwise, no big face is likely to visit the bereaved family, share the pain of the victim’s sister, or highlight it for the cause of justice, going by precedence.

In Kashmir, nothing seems to be above the “Kashmir cause”.

Not even such horror.

Courtesy: dailyO
Author: Majid Hyderi

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