Mumbai: The brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from Jammu & Kashmir’s Kathua has sparked outrage and anger across India. Scores of organisations and hundreds of people congregated at the iconic Azad Maidan on Friday to protest for the same.
Organisations from across the city had come together to demand justice for the child and also sought arrests of whoever responsible for the heinous crime. “(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s slogans of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is merely a sham. He has been quiet as if nothing has happened,” said Feroz Mithiborewala, one of the organisers of the event and convenor of a progressive outfit Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy.
The body of the eight-year-old girl, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe, was found in a forest on 17 January near Kathua city of Kashmir.
Organisations and agitators also condemned another rape case in which a lawmaker is accused of raping a 16-year-old in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Kuldeep Singh Sengar, from the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) allegedly raped the girl last year in Unnao district. But her case was registered only after she tried to kill herself last week in front of the chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s home.
“In India, they think they can get away with everything, even a gruesome crime like rape and murder. But ironically, we common citizens require permission even for speaking our heart out,” said MA Khalid of All India Milli Council and also one of the event organisers.
People were holding placards and chanting slogans like ‘RSS Murdabad’, ‘Justice for the deceased eight-year-old girl’ and ‘We Want Justice’ among others. Kids as young as five years, wearing T-shirts with freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s photo, were holding ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ placards.
“There have been cases of rapes for sure, in all the governments. But today, it is also about government saving the culprits. An office-bearer of BJP is raping women. Women are being molested and harassed on a grassroot level. We have to tackle that and improve collective conscience of the society,” said Avinash Kumar of Naujawan Bharat Sabha.
Asides from organisations, there were political leaders from the Congress Party and Nationalist Congress Party. Celebrities were also present to support the rape victims. Sapna Bhavnani, a celebrity hairstylist who had confessed she was gang-raped when she was 24, said people should come out in the open in order to be heard.
“If people come and ask questions on the ground, the government or whoever is responsible will be scared and have to respond. It is a serious issue. Whichever party is in power, we are not bothered about it. But what are you doing? Where is our chief minister? And how come you come down to us when you need votes?” asked Sapna.
People wrote messages they want to convey to the government and pasted it on a pandal wall dedicated for the same at the Azad Maidan. Some of the slogans read, ‘If BJP does not listen to us, we will snatch your power in next ballo’, ‘Stop state-sponsored sexual violence’ while some coined hashtags like #NotMyIndia besides from #Unnao and #Kathua.