Women get raped because they wear jeans. Women get raped because they are out after dark. Women get raped because they talk on the phone. Women get raped because -- well, because men are not held accountable for their actions. The society may tell you how wrong you are as a woman and why exactly you deserve to be harassed but the truth is that men rape because a majority of them consider it their birth right to cause harm to a woman or a girl and know that they will get away with it. And the very sad part is that they actually do.
Women get raped because they wear jeans. Women get raped because they are out after dark. Women get raped because they talk on the phone.
In January this year, a young 8 year old little girl from Jammu was starved, drugged, tortured, gang raped and strangled by seven to eight men that included a police official, a former revenue official, a juvenile and a few other men. In a country where few months old babies and 90-year old ladies are raped, the news may not be that surprising. The world we live in points its fingers towards the victim, who happens to be a little girl in this case. Why was she assaulted so brutally? Maybe these men found something so provocative in that 8 year old girl that they felt she needed to feel their power. Or maybe that little girl had somehow challenged their masculinity that she had to be told who’s boss. Or maybe, they were just a bunch of boys being boys. The investigation of the case found that the plan was to abduct the girl and kill her to get the Bakharwals, a community in Jammu often discriminated against, to leave the village. So, in other words, in our country, the perfect way to get someone you hate to leave your village is to torture and murder their baby.
Women get raped because -- well, because men are not held accountable for their actions.
A charge sheet against the accused was filed amid protests by Kathua lawyers and other people of the community. The 18 page charge sheet states that, the poor little girl was gang-raped thrice inside the prayer hall of a temple (Yes, a temple!) after Sanji Ram, the retired revenue official performed a “ritual”. One of the rapists came all the way from Meerut to “satisfy his lust”. Towards the end, the only reason she was kept alive for a few more minutes is because Deepak Khajuria, the police official, wanted to rape her one last time, after which her head was smashed to make sure she was dead.
“After committing the barbaric act of rape on the minor victim, the accused Khajuria kept her neck on his left thigh and started applying force with his hands on her neck in order to kill her… Khajuria was unsuccessful in killing her, the juvenile killed her by pressing his knees against her back while strangulating the girl by applying force on both the ends of her chunni. Thereafter, the accused, in order to make sure that the victim is dead, hit her twice on head with a stone,’’ the charge sheet says.
“She was a talkative girl and a joyous soul. She would even greet strangers with a smile. She was captive for seven days. She might have gone through hell. Her two ribs were also fractured. She was abused sexually,” the girl’s mother has said.
The incident itself does not even begin to cover the shocking part. Our lead star here, Deepak Khajuria, was a part of the police team that recovered the child’s body. There have been numerous attempts to destroy the evidence and cover the case up under the ‘community’ blanket. Using community and religion as a weapon, people in Jammu have been asked to support the accused. By linking the honor of the accused with the honor of the community and the nation, the Jammu Bar Association has been defending the accused and threatening the victim’s lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat. On 9th April, a few days ago, the Kathua Bar Association, together with the Hindu Ekta March, blocked the crime branch officials trying to go inside the court to file the charge sheet against the accused.
Rallies, organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, in support of the accused have been attended by BJP ministers Chandra Prakash Gupta and Lal Singh, who reportedly said at a rally, “What if a girl has died? Many girls have died here,” Ironically, BJP happens to be the flag-bearer of the social campaign, Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao.
After doing nothing to support the father of the child, the village went even further and banned him from burying his daughter's body in the land he owned. He had to travel at least 10 km away from his village to finally lay his little girl to rest in a forest, so far from home and all alone.
While the West is working on solutions to unequal pay and a positive work environment for women at work, we, in India, can barely keep our women and even small girls safe from gang rapes and other forms of sexual assaults. While countries like the US have charities to support sexual harassment victims in fighting their harassers, we, in India, believe that there is no better way to send a message to someone than to rape and torture their kids.
While the West is saying that time’s up, we in India are still wondering where our watches are!
Views expressed are the author's own
Nandini Arora, part of Safecity’s #WritersMovement, works as a Brand Manager in a Software Development company in New Delhi. Although married to numbers, her first love has always been books and writing. She regularly writes about issues such as women’s safety, Feminism, LGBTQ etc. on her blog nandiniaroraweb.wordpress.com