Valley cannot be dehumanised
The Kashmir valley is not unknown to abuse, horror, and gravest misfortunes brought upon by the prolonged conflict, but this time, it has been shaken by an incident that had an impact felt similarly by all irrespective of which side of the line one is on. The rape of a three-year-old in Bandipore district that is believed to have happened last week by a youth, has sparked widespread protest by students, political parties and the civil society across the Kashmir valley with calls for strictest possible punishment for the culprit, and has drawn condemnation from across a range of institutions. On Monday, several schools, shops and other business establishments in Srinagar remained shut, also affecting public transport in the city by the strike. The apprehended youth had lured the child with sweets to an isolated courtyard in Trigam village in Sumbal and assaulted her. When the child narrated the incident to her parents, the youth was taken to the police. Medical examination of the toddler confirmed rape and the accused has been booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. However, matters took a different turn when the apprehended youth claimed to be a minor and produced a certificate of a private school in support of the claim. The outraged villagers demanded the school be sealed and some even reportedly tried to set the school ablaze. The principal of that school is a close relative of the accused and has also been taken into custody. Subsequently, a medical board is set up to determine the age of the accused by means of ossification test. Ossification is the natural process of bone formation whereby muscular tissues harden into bony substance. The Supreme Court in Mukarrab vs. State of UP case reiterated that ossification test cannot be regarded as conclusive for ascertaining the age of a person and observed that age determination by means of ossification test does not yield accurate and precise conclusions after the examinee crosses the age of 30 years. The test in this case, however, may not be redundant and irrelevant since the accused is a youth. A medical board will determine the age of accused through this test because the police are not willing to entertain the certificate issued by the school principal who is in "protective custody" because police fear he may be harmed by angry villagers.
As a matter of regular drill, mobile internet service has been clamped down in the valley following the protests in the wake of this heinous misdeed. What we gather from the entire incident is that such crimes are more rampant in this country than one could imagine. Just because it is Kashmir and remains safely eclipsed behind the perpetuated conflict, does not mean that the familiar societal disorders of India at large do not exist in there. But it takes misfortunes of such kind to be reminded that ensconced in the valley is another similar society with similar concerns and insecurities, seeking similar assurances.