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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 24 New Delhi June 2, 2018

Rape of Forms, of Psyches!

Saturday 2 June 2018, by Humra Quraishi


I’m finding it impossible to grasp the ruthlessness meted out to rape victims in this country. Take the case of the eight-year-old girl raped and murdered in Kathua, on the outskirts of Jammu, and also that of the 16-year-old girl raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao. In both the cases the rapists were more than identified and well within the jurisdiction of the State to have been nabbed and nailed immediately, yet look at the way hurdles are getting thrown in the way. Not to be overlooked the basic fact that in both these cases the alleged rapists are in some way or the other connected to the sarkar, yet look at the way the situation is being handled. In the case of the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl, among the accused are two special police officers (SPOs), a head constable (charged with destruction of evidence), a former revenue official (alleged conspirator), his son. And in the Unnao rape case the main accused is the sitting MLA from district Unnao.

More than shocking to see a twisted system which more than relays that two sets of rules prevail: after all, it is the political mafia which rules and overrules all moves. Be it in the State of Uttar Pradesh or in J&K, it is the Right-wing Hindutva brigades which seem to be going overboard in trying to protect the rapists. Yes, today, fascism seems so well seeped in, that even little girls can be raped and gang-raped by men connected to the very system.

The situation compounds in the so-called conflict zones. And if one were to grasp the details of the instances of the security men molesting and even raping women in the conflict zones, it is best to read the recently published volume, Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?, published by Zubaan, and authored by Essar Batool, Ifrah Butt, Munaza Rashid, Natasha Rathar, Samreen Mushtaq. It is a well-researched volume on the mass rapes by security personnel in two Kashmir villages—Kunan and Poshpora. Though the mass rapes took place way back during the the night of February 23, 1991, when personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army cordoned off the two villages, Kunan and Poshpora, in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district during an anti-insurgency operation and allegedly gang-raped at least 23 women (though some estimates place it at around 40) but till date there seems no closure.

During my interactions with the local Kashmiris what struck was their apprehensions of the security forces. With a huge military presence amongst a civilian population, there are bound to be offshoots, directly or indirectly leaving imprints on forms and psyches.

I recall two rather frightful sights—once when I was covering the elections of 2002 in J&K. As I stopped by at a village in South Kashmir, search operations on way, with soldiers barging into homes, pushing and pulling women ...their screams and shrieks didn’t seem to halt any of the atrocities heaped on the hapless civilians... And then during a crackdown in one of the downtown mohallas of Srinagar it was sheer hell for entire families living in the cordoned-off area.

Sadly and shockingly, in these developed times, military might holds sway. If one were to go through news reports in the local newspapers of the Kashmir Valley as well as in the national dailies of the country of the last few years, there have been several such reported cases in Kashmir. Mind you, many cases go unreported because of the fear of the aftermath.

Here it is relevant to mention that one should not overlook the Special Acts in force in the State of J&K. Though the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 confers the power upon the National Human Rights Commission to inquire into and investigate allegations of violations of human rights by civil authorities, according to Section 19 of the Act that pertains to complaints of violations by members of the Armed Forces, the Commission may, either on its own motion or on receipt of a petition, seek a report from the Central Government. And after the receipt of the report, it may either not proceed with the complaint or, as the case may be, make its recommendations to that government.

Today, though we call ourselves ‘developed’ but the truth is that we are more than under- developed. Try introspecting on this bit of history: when Mughal Emperor Akbar led his Army towards the Kashmir Valley he took two precautions to keep the local population safe, away from the onslaught of his soldiers—the Mughal army was not just stationed outside the Srinagar city but also equipped with a group of professional entertainers carted all the way from Delhi and Agra.

Today, with conflicts emerging from diverse regions of the country, the very expanse of ‘conflict situations’ has not just grown but compounded. Even in the metropolitans, there are the so-called ‘conflict zones’ nurtured by the political mafia. After all, all possible crime can be thrust on the heads and tails of the slum dwellers! Let me highlight this vital fact: Though according to popular perception, slums and outlying colonies could be full of criminals, but those theories could seem somewhat outdated in today’s world of the rich and powerful. Sex-starved and perverse and ruthless are the mighty of the day. As they go on the prowl, just about any form will do! Even wives not spared; sexually assaulted by perverse husbands, but how can the ‘developed’ us talk of marital rapes!

With communal violence spreading out in the country, the situation gets compounded... Till about the 1990s, the very word ‘rape’ was one of those hush-hush words, not to be uttered out there in the open! In fact, it was during the Gujarat pogrom in 2002 that I’d first heard stark details to rapes, as rape victims recounted the fury and ferociousness unleashed on them. More than bruised, unsure whether their rapists could be ever arrested. “How can we expect rapists to be nabbed if they are part and parcel of the ruling brigades hell bent on hounding us! Nah, no justice for us... not in our lifetime!” During my coverage of riots and rioting, the ground reality that has come to the fore is this: each time a riot or a pogrom is ‘made’ to occur by the political and land mafia at work, the minority groups and communities suffer several horrifying offshoots. Rapes, molestations of women and young girls takes place in the midst of uncontrolled violence. Yes, this is the reality which we try to brush under those dusty carpets...throttling voices and cries for justice.

This brings me to write that soon after the communal rioting that shook Western Uttar Pradesh during the summer of 2013, I’d met victims of rape and molestation. And they told me in no uncertain terms that they were not even allowed to lodge FIRs. Why? “Because we were threatened by the local political goons ...there was danger of our entire families getting attacked. We were forced to keep shut or else see more destruction and deaths around! As it is we were hounded out of our ancestral villages... nobody from the sarkar came to our rescue even when we were fleeing like refugees. Nah, the police is not for us ...after all, we are Musalmans! Who cares about us, about our plight!”

Raping of psyches!

The deteriorating political pollution seems to be affecting hundreds. There’s that fury and ferociousness spreading out. Everyone’s on some wild chase...wilder it gets as the atmosphere gets surcharged.

Polluted atmosphere, polluted minds, polluted system. And in this mahaul it’s not very amiss to hear poison-dripping polluted speeches of the communally charged. Nothing short of raping the very psyche!

At least the kings of yesteryears killed at one go. Not like today’s politicians hell bent on killing our souls, raping our psyche, day after day with those poison-dripping speeches, and yet they remain intact and untouched. The nexus leaves them untouched.

I cannot comprehend the various dimensions to the double or triple standards around—as though, the rulers are giving a sanction of sorts to the political mafia for rapes and molestations to take place during pogroms or rioting, or during internal displacements or on any given pretext.

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