Beneath the false colours of crime
All rapes are brutal. Rape of a child is heinous of an unspeakable kind. The distinction of “rarest of the rare” crime must be put to rest
The Kathua case of January 2018 is yet another number in the list of atrocities committed against the vulnerable. The fact that brutalising an 8-year-old child does not outrage people more than the planning and steps leading up to her cruel death speaks enough of the extent to which society has largely been desensitised to crimes of this nature. On a dark note, crimes against women are close to normalised. Crimes against children seem to be getting there.
To begin with, there are many angles to this tragedy: child abuse, crime against minority, sexual assault, the extent of planning that goes into accomplishing a crime, institutionalising a crime at various levels, basically xenophobia to details. At the local level, this method was used to intimidate and drive away the Bakerwal nomadic community the child belonged to; at the executive level, local police was bribed to cover up and hush the matter and when things didn't go as planned, some politicians pitch in; further, with lawyers breaking into agitation instead of resorting to formal procedure to insist that the case be handed over to CBI, it reeks of a sinister, bigger plan. And finally, the ultimate political weapon – religion is used to give final touches to the effigy of a benumbed society.
The horrifying rape per se this time (unlike in the case of Nirbhaya) is not the reason for collective antagonism. But, that this sexual assault repeatedly committed with the primary purpose of intimidating has been given communal colours needs to be acknowledged that there is always an escape from punishments for some people. Nothing explains this proposition better than the Unnao rape case which was perpetrated by a lawmaker of the ruling government. The government in Jammu and Kashmir is partly the same establishment and to the horror of most empathetic people, the antics of Hindu radical group marching to protest the links unearthed in the course of investigation is testimony to the regressive attitudes emerging from a class that has the capacity to influence society at large and radiate to other institutions of order and justice. Institutionalising bigotry has stooped to unprecedented lows.
Increasing rate of reported crimes against children is a grave social malady, first of all. Pradyuman, Zainab, Asifa are few names that bring the matter to the forefront. The rape of an infant by an octogenarian, too, was nothing more than a local news report and has most likely faded from public memory. The campaign for awarding capital punishment for raping a minor ought to gather momentum more expansively for the very same reason the eight-year-old child in Kathua was gangraped and murdered: to intimidate and deter everyone who thinks that committing a crime like rape is a badge of honour.
Keeping aside the debate regarding ethical incorrectness of capital punishment, there is a greater need to understand that as sexual offence is used as a method intimidate and subdue an individual or a group by someone who considers himself superior and entitled to do so. A befitting punishment must necessarily be meted out to bring down the likelihood of such crimes. All rapes are brutal. Rape of children, in particular, is heinous of an unspeakable kind. The distinction of "rarest of the rare" in terms of sexual crimes ought to be put to rest. The police team of Jammu and Kashmir that cracked the case in record time – ten days ahead of the 90-day deadline despite the compounding odds, deserves to be recognised. There remains some glimmer of hope when common people get beyond personal and show concern, fear, and a hopelessly disgusted reprimand for such horrendousness when they see it against the yardstick of their own children around that age.
(The author is Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. The views are strictly personal)