Selective quest for justice and truth

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Shopian-rapesWhy is it that the rapes of marginalized women do not provoke the outrage of self-proclaimed do-gooders?

By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

Almost a month after the Shopian killings, an enquiry commission has finally been ordered and despite deepening anger and rage, the government is still buying time on winding up the Gagran CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) camp, the main demand of a district in protest ever since September 7.

Does one expect any justice to be delivered? The past experience of such enquiry commissions has been dismal. Their reports are either not made public or rot on the shelves of government offices with no action taken even if someone is indicted.Mostly, such commissions appointed by the government turn out to be very partisan in their approach.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, while announcing this fresh commission to probe the Shopian killings did not hesitate to offer his own assessment of the killings even as he maintained that he’d learnt the lesson of not speaking aloud after the experience of Shopian rapes and murders in 2009. Then he’d maintained that the two girls died of drowning in ankle deep water. Now he maintains that atleast one of the slain persons was a militant.

The findings of the commission of inquiry ordered after the Shopian rapes and murders indicted the police of atleast dereliction of duty and premeditated tampering of evidence. The state high court which ordered the arrest of 4 policemen observed about them that ‘either they have committed the crime or know who has done it’. But a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe was ordered, not to clear the cobwebs but to suit the chief minister’s preliminary assessment of what happened in Shopian in 2009 and it not only ruled out murder and rape but conveniently jumped to the conclusion that the girls had drowned without giving evidence of the same. It is now anybody’s guess what the fresh commission would reveal.

The government’s over zealousness in protecting its guilty (and Omar Abdullah alone cannot be singled out for endorsing such patterns of impunity) no longer comes as a shock. What comes as a bigger shock is an ‘awakened’ nation’s selective quest for justice and truth. Why is it that some heinous crimes shake a nation that makes all out attempts to justify another kind? In recent years, Indian civil society has revealed its moments of waking up the occasions, with massive street protests and agitations in pursuit of a fight against several evils – primarily against corruption and rapes.

The Delhi bus gang rape brought people across the spectrum to the streets, manifesting their intolerance to a culture of rapes, and thus brought the government to its feet which responded with quick probe and fast track trial. The Mumbai gang rape of a journalist saw similar streaks of shock and national rage. Why is it that the rapes of socially and economically marginalized women in the rural landscape or the rapes of women from religious minorities during communal riots can’t evoke that similar outrage? India’s self-proclaimed do-gooders would be quick to emphasize that the Delhi rape was extremely brutal enough to inspire that shock and sense of awakening.

While I donot know of any act of rape that would be un-brutal, it is difficult to understand the pulse of a nation that wakes up when a girl is raped, followed by a murderous assault in a moving bus, but remains unmoved beyond the initial horror, when a six year old is raped and her rapist shoves up bottles inside her. Why is it that mass rapes of girls in front of their mothers in Muzzafarnagar do not conjure up a picture of brutality in the nation’s imagination, neither do rapes and slitting of wombs of women in Gujarat?

Why is a Soni Sori raped in custody in Chattisgarh, and wooden and metal pieces shoved up her vagina, remain unnoticed or a Manorama raped and murdered by army in Manipur receive a lukewarm attention even as outraged women of Manipur brought to this very nation, some years ago, the shocking images of women protesting outside an army camp by stripping naked and waving banners that said ‘Indian army come and rape us’.

The same nation which can for days protest across the country against corruption and then celebrate the victory of seeing politicians like Lalu Prasad Yadav convicted, stripped up of their parliament seats and sent to jail remain totally uninspired when a former army chief is accused of similar acts of corruption. Lalu Yadav’s conviction and accusations against former army chief V K Singh make an interesting comparative study.

Lalu’s corrupt deeds are seen as part of a larger canvas of morass of corruption in which the politicians are sinking on a day to day basis. When the former army chief, without denying allegations of paying politicians and NGOs in Kashmir, justifies them on the plea that this has been the norm, the nation refuses to see the larger picture and goes into a denial mode, believing conveniently that he is lying. No questions asked about how they draw this conclusion or about why BJP, which has welcomed this former army chief as its member, maintains cryptic silence – neither endorsing Singh’s views nor calling it a blatant lie.

A nation fed on the lies of ‘holy cow’ image of the man in uniform, particular by the army, wishes to hear no uncomfortable truths, it wishes to hide them, cover them up or go into silence with the belief that whatever was done must have been done for the larger national interest. Which national interest is served when men in uniform have learnt to buy political men and interfere in democratic processes with unaccounted money at their disposal?

What gallantry is believed to have been exercised when they raped and murdered women? Whose cause has been espoused when they kill young men in cold blood and pass them off as militants? And what nation is said to have been awakened which wishes to defend some injustices while make a lot of noise in its quest for selective justice?

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