Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-hyped campaign “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” [Save the girl child, Educate the girl child] has been put to shame as an 8-year-old child was gang-raped and assaulted by eight men for days inside a place of worship in Jammu and Kashmir before they killed her and dumped her lifeless body.
No amount of social media outrage, no candle march, no television debates can cover up our failure of being able to offer safety and protection to our daughters.
The anger, disgust, helplessness that girl’s parents are undergoing is something beyond our imagination.
One wonders, where were the Gods, when the child was undergoing death-pain and crying blood! Why didn’t any miracle happen when the culprits raped her for “one last time” before smashing her head with a stone – not once, but twice, to ensure she is actually dead?
All we can do is rant … and before we forget and get busy with other more interesting things in life in a day or two, let us rewind and see how we have failed an 8-year-old:
1. On January 10, the girl, aged 8, was grazing her horses in a meadow at a village in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. Police investigation said a man beckoned her into the forest and she followed. Thus she was kidnapped.
2. She was reportedly grabbed by the neck and forced to swallow sleeping pills.
3. The man and his friend, then dragged her to a nearby ‘Devisthan’ and locked her inside.
4. From Jan 10 to Jan 17, she was allegedly gangraped by eight men, including a retired government official, four police officers and a juvenile.
5. Every time she opened her eyes, she was given sedatives, raped and brutalized, the police said.
6. The main conspirator and accused in the case is 60-year-old Sanji Ram, who is the caretaker of “Devisthan”, where the crime took place.
8. The other accused were special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, their friend Parvesh Kumar or Mannu, Sanji Ram’s underage nephew and Sanji Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra or “Shamma”.
9. On Jan 11, Sanji Ram’s nephew even called his cousin Vishal Jangotra, who was studying at Meerut city of Uttar Pradesh, to come and join them in raping xxxx to “satisfy his lust”.
10. What was worse, during the entire period, Sanji Ram and his nephew performed the usual rituals to avoid suspicion.
11. In fact, when the girl’s parents, while searching for her, asked Sanji Ram if he had seen her, he told them she might have gone to a relative’s house.
12. Just before the girl was killed in the forests, Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria told his co-accused to wait as he wanted to rape her “one last time”.
13. After another round of gangrape, the victim was strangulated. To ensure here death, Sanji Ram’s nephew crushed her head twice with a stone.
14. They had planned to throw her body in a canal but since could not arrange a vehicle, they dumped her in a forest near her village.
15. The child’s body was recovered on January 17.
16. The case was handed over to the Crime Branch on January 23. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed to probe the case.
17. The Jammu and Kashmir Police filed a 15-page charge-sheet in the chief judicial magistrate’s court on Monday (Apr 9).
18. The charge-sheet names two more cops – head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta – for allegedly taking Rs. 4 lakh from Sanji Ram for destroying crucial evidence.
19. Sanji Ram surrendered on March 20, a day after his son was arrested from Meerut. All eight accused have been arrested. Their statements have been recorded.
20. the girl child belonged to Bakharwal nomadic community, who live in hamlets in the Pir Panjal mountains and earn their living by grazing cattle.
21. This gangrape and murder is seen an attempt to drive the Bakharwals out from the area of Kathua where they are in minority.
22. During investigation, the police found out that Sanji Ram was staunchly against the Bakherwals living in the Rassana, Kootah and Dhamyal areas and always used to instigate people against letting them graze their cattle on their land.
23. The arrests sparked protests in Jammu. Two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers – Jammu and Kashmir Forest Minister Chaudhary Lal Singh and Industries Minister Chander Parkash Ganga – attended a rally organised against the arrests.
24. On Monday (Apr 9), some lawyers tried to stop the police enter the court to file the chargesheet in the Kathua rape and murder case.
25. On Tuesday (Apr 10), an FIR was lodged against the accused lawyers.
“Action under law will be taken against those found involved in the incident,” said Director-General of Police SP Vaid.
26. The Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHBA) called for a bandh in Jammu on Wednesday (Apr 11) demanding Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case.
27. The incident was condemned by the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI-M].
28. It was Union Minister and BJP leader VK Singh, who was the first government voice to speak on the matter.
“We have failed Ashifa as humans. But she will not be denied justice,” he tweeted on Thursday (Apr 12).
29. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday (Apr 12) said justice will be delivered to the victim.
“I want to assure the entire nation that I stand committed not just to ensure justice for XXXX but also seek exemplary punishment for those responsible for a crime whose brutal savagery has shamed humanity,” Mufti posted on Twitter.
“We will never ever let another child suffer in this way. We will bring a new law that will make the death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors, so that little xxxx’s case becomes the last,” she said.
30. Opposition National Conference leader Omar Abdullah lashed out at Mufti for inaction against the two BJP ministers who attended the protest rally.
“Mehbooba ji before you try to convince us you will be able to safeguard against future xxxxes what action will you take against your Ministers who supported xxxx’s murderers?” Abdullah countered Mufti on Twitter.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.