Friday, April 20, 2018

Kathua Rape Case and 'Breaking India' Forces

A large part of my news and social media feed recently has been filled with reports and opinions related to the brutal rape and murder of an 8-year old girl named Asifa Bano in India. According to the reports:
The little girl, who came from a small village in the Jammu region of  the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), was abducted by some Hindu miscreants. They locked her up inside a nearby temple, and raped her several times for a week before killing her by strangulation. Her battered body was found close to the temple a week after she had gone missing.

Even if you are not an Indian, you are likely to have come across this news, because it got huge international coverage.
The New York Times tweeted (@nytimes) April 11, 2018, "In India, the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl has led to protests by Hindu nationalists — coming to the defense of the accused.
Barkha Dutt reported in the Washington Post, "Hindu ‘nationalists’ defend accused rapists and shame India."

The case in question had actually happened in early January, so why was the national and international media reporting it only in April? This was supposedly because the "Hindu nationalists" were trying to defend the rapists.

Like most people, I too was gullible to believe these reports. Rape is anyway one of the most heinous crimes possible. But hearing about a little kid getting raped is extremely distressing. The thought that people were defending the rapists of a little kid for reasons of common religious identity was downright sickening.

Media's Falsehoods
However, as I started researching more about the incident, I found that a large part of what the media  has been airing was misleading and even factually incorrect. I won't go into the details of all those inconsistencies, but below is is a quick brief of some of the important ones.
  1. The "Hindu nationalists" who according to many media houses were "shamelessly defending the rapists" were actually demanding justice for the Asifa. In fact, in every interview that I have seen of these protesters, they always emphasized that they want the true rapists to be punished, and in the severest terms possible, irrespective of what religion they belonged to. Unfortunately, the partisan media houses continue to paint a different narrative.
  2. The "Hindu nationalists" were simply demanding that the case be transferred from the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the state government to the Central Bureau of Investigation (or CBI; this is the equivalent of FBI in USA). You can see this in the Bandh call given by the Hindu Ekta Manch in the first week of March. These "Hindu Nationalists" observed that SIT was not conducting a fair investigation, and was instead harassing all Hindus living in the vicinity, to the extent that many Hindu families had been forced to leave their villages. It certainly did not help that the SIT was also headed by a cop who had himself been accused of rape and murder in the past and had the reputation of being sympathetic to Kashmir separatists. CBI investigation has always been of much better quality than that of local police investigations, so how does demanding CBI investigation constitute to supporting rapists?
  3. According to the charge sheet filed by the SIT, the accused kept and raped the kidnapped girl in a village temple. However, as can be seen in this report, this seems impossible, because the temple was a small one-room building that was common to three different villages. That is the reason it had three doors in three different directions to allow villagers from the different villages to visit it at anytime of the day. How could a girl have been kept captive for a week in a small temple that was frequented daily by Hindus from local villages? Also, as pointed out in this video, a few meters away from where the body of the girl was found started deep forests. Why would the culprits throw the body of the girl close to the temple when they could have safely dumped the body in deeper forest?
    • For those who are not from India or are unfamiliar with Hindu traditions, it should be noted that Hindu temples aren't just visited on any one particular day of the week--as happens with Christian churches, for example. Since temples are frequented by devotees everyday of the week, it is difficult to imagine how no one noticed the poor girl if she had been locked up in this small temple. 
I stumbled on this picture while I was researching for this article. See how large parts of Kashmir (that occupied by Pakistan) have been cut off in this depiction of India's map? So have we Indians now given up our claim on POK? Picture Credit:
Many authors have written before about the Breaking India forces that exist within certain sections of the Indian media. I too had observed the divisive reporting of of some media personalities, but I had always given them the benefit of doubt. For example, I reasoned may be these journalists were just overenthusiastic when they "inadvertently" reported on the locations of our soldiers during the Kargil War on live television, thereby endangering the lives of our soldiers. Similarly, may be the Lutyen's media was supporting the leftist JNU students' slogan of "Bharat Tere Tukde Honge (India, may you be broken into fragments)" because they genuinely believed in the freedom of speech. I even thought that they never deliberately intended to denigrate Hinduism when they started using the revered word  of Bhakt (a Hindu devotee) derogatorily. However, given the deliberately misleading way that some media houses and personalities have covered the Kathua rape case, now I have no doubt in my mind that the Breaking India and Shaming Hindu forces are real. Sadly, this partisan media is also winning, at least going by the sentiments expressed on Social Media by some of my friends. People are generally gullible, so easily fall prey to the manipulative tactics used by these media powerhouses. But more on that in the next post.

...To be continued.

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