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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 46 New Delhi November 3, 2018

The Kathua Rape: Looking for Dharmic Justice

Saturday 3 November 2018


by Arup Kumar Sen

About 10 months ago, a minor girl of the nomadic Bakerwal community was allegedly gangraped and murdered in a village of Jammu’s Kathua district. This savage act has more or less got erased from our collective memory.

Reportedly, the family of the Kathua girl has “spent four months in the mountainous areas of Kargil district and is now on its way to the plains in the Jammu region, where it will stay for the next six months” during the winter. Having covered nearly 600 km along with their livestock as part of their annual winter migration, about 20 nomadic Bakerwal families, including the biological and adoptive parents of the Kathua rape-murder victim, will spend a month in the Nandini Hills of the Samba district before proceeding to their final destination in the plains of Jammu. The adoptive family will move to Rasana in the Kathua district, but the biological parents will stay in Samba, where they spend the winter every year. Before the family of the victim girl reaches their village in Kathua, their habitat has turned hostile. To put it in the words of the 45-year- old father of the girl: “The local people at the moment are not prepared to sell us leaves nor allow our livestock water from the village ponds and tanks”. At the same time, he stated: “Have to go home, whether we live or die. Our land is there.” (The Indian Express, October 22, 2018)

The parents of the victim Kathua girl have become disillusioned with the ‘civil society’, and expressed their feelings to The Tribune team, who travelled deep into the forest to meet the family. The mother of the girl told them in tears: “The so-called social activists and politicians, who were in the forefront of the campaign seeking justice, brazenly exploited the brutality committed on my daughter and abandoned us after achieving petty personal goals...We want exemplary punishment for those who committed the heinous crime.” (The Tribune, October 23, 2018).

On a petition by the victim’s family seeking transfer of the case from Kathua in view of the hostile atmosphere, the Supreme Court had shifted the trial to Pathankot. The father of the girl has been travelling from Kargil to Pathankot for the hearings. What he communicated to The Indian Express goes beyond the limits of our secular paradigm of justice: “What I am seeking is justice for my girl. While the court will decide whether those arrested are guilty or not, we have left the matter to the court of Allah. It is our highest court.”

Marx’s understanding of religion, as frequently quoted by Marxists, is that “it is the opium of the people”. But, the quest for justice on the part of the father of the victim girl in Kathua reminds us of the preceding part of Marx’s observation on religion, as quoted above: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.”

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