K B Jandial
With the passing of each day after Crime Branch’s (CB) filing of charge sheet in the communally sensitive gruesome Rassana rape and murder case, the crime story is getting murkier with daily revelation of contradictory facts and unanswered questions. The fact finding report of all-women team of a nationally reputed Group of Intellectuals and Academician (all women body) that comprised former District and Session Judge, SC Advocate, Professors, has literally questioned the CB’s challan. The claim of gang rape too has been questioned. This led to some change in perception at national and state level and also appreciation of demand for CBI probe.
Politically and socially, Rassana rape case has taken a heavy toll on Jammu.Politically, the latest causality is the Dy. Chief Minister Nirmal Singh who resigned in a major cabinet rejig on Monday last. PDP too didn’t remain as Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan was dropped reportedly for State’s top legal team’s poor showin Apex Court which stayed the Rassana trial till May 7, 2018.
Earlier, two BJP Ministers – Ch. Lal Singh and Chander Parkash Ganga, had to go after Mehbooba made their resignation as a pre-condition to continue the coalition amidst media blitz for their blood for participating in the pro- CBI rally at Kootah Marh a month and half ago. Interestingly, both the Ministers had met the CM for CBI probe which she rejected. Replacement of Dy. CM is also linked with the loss of face of BJP in Jammu as the leadership could not handle the post-rape situation properly and mostly seen to be subservient to Mehbooba Mufti. Interestingly, he has now supported CBI probe after resignation.
The new Dy. CM Kavinder Gupta too landed himself in trouble by making off-the-cuff unguarded comment on Rassana rape case minutes after being sworn-in,calling it a “minor” incident and it should not be given much hype even though he did say that the challenge before the Government was to ensure that such unfortunate incidents didn’t reoccur. His subsequent clarification finally lowered down the media’stempers and political opponents. Media’s another “chase” for removal was of the newly inducted Forest Minister Rajiv Jasrotia for his presence at the rally of “Hindu Ekta Manch”along with Ch. Lal Singh and Ganga on the ground that if two ministers resigned for their presence in the rally why not him. But the demand died down but not the debate on rape case which still rallies around CBI probe. Apart from making a prestigiousissue of the “faith” in State’s own competent and “infallible” Police, there is no plausible counter to the CBI demand.
More than the resignation of Ministers, it’s the psyche of Jammu, and more specifically, of the Dogras that has been badly bruised; first by this shameful incident, that too alleged to be committed in a revered ‘Devasthan’ and then by the scornful pro-rapists tag. The story of the crime allegedly committed in the community ‘devasthan’ has put every Hindu to shame. The hurt is very deep. Under proud Hindu culture and traditions, “kanjak” (small girls irrespective of caste and religion) are worshipped and not raped, that too in ‘devasthan’. Inconceivable for any Hindu! Has Dogra culture degenerated to this extent that a “kanjak” is raped? Jammu has a dilemma; believe the CB story or dismiss it as conspiracy? It is also difficult to subscribe to the theory of “conspiracy” given the fact thatthe CB was headed by an upright ADG from Jammu and the SIT had three Hindu officers including the SSP and a local lady Dy. SP whose integrity is not questionable. Why should they denigrate their own religious places? There is nothing against the integrity of the present CB head, who happens to be Jammu Muslim.Still the people call it a botched up investigation.
Jammu, better known for its pluralism, tolerance, communal amity, peace and a safe abode for all classes of displaced persons, is hurt for being painted as pro-rapists. The “Bharat ke tukre tukre” gang and others similarly aligned elements including separatists who had never ever held aloft Tiranga in their hands, and had been burningit every now and then,were seen criticizing pro-CBI agitators for holding Tiranga. Their new found love for Tiranga is astounding. These anti- Indian activists and their lobbyists hadchallenged the time tested secular and nationalistic credentials of Jammu. Some of the “tukretukre”gang members have raised over Rs. 40 lakhs from the people in Kashmir in the name of the “Muslim” victim.
While Rassana incident is despicable, it has been used as a tool for communal polarisation and certain political ends. Jammu has never been polarized as it is today, even though the fissures have not yet come out in the open. Centuries’ old Dogra- Gujjar bhaichara and peaceful co-existence of people of all faiths and communities in Jammu is being targeted by some elements through Rasana crime.The extent of polarisation is felt from the fact that the medical examination of victim’s vaginal swabs, hair strands, and viscera are being subjected to different interpretations depending on which community the speaker belongs to.
As the things are unfolding now, the anti-Jammu narrative that the national mediacreated was professionally planned by some people in the authority. It is alleged that there were professionally managed selective leaks of the investigation at different stages either by investigating agency or any one on its behalf, surprisingly to Kashmir media and Kashmir media persons even when the crime was committed in Jammu. Rasana leaks were prominently splashed by Kashmir media and certain national newspapers and created a particular narrative.
Interestingly, English translation of some parts of challansin Urdu in whichmany journalists don’t have proficiency,was immediately made available to journalists in Kashmir, while on the other hand, some of the accused didn’t get the mandatory charge sheet. Where was the need to do it? Or was it to demolish the reputation of the people of a particular region?Where was the need to sensationalize the crime that brought two communities face-to-face? Was it prelude to justify some plans? Did it benefit anyone? On the contrary, it has created an avoidable communal dividein Jammu. It is no good for anyone.
With this reigning narrative, the national TV debates had been unfair to Jammu. These werebrazenly anti-Jammu, anti-Jammu Bar Association or for that matter anti- Jammu Bandh with anyone from Jammu trying to speak a counter narrative was heckled and humiliatedfor “standing with rapists”.The media had become judgmental. The demand for CBI probe became synonym with pro-rapists, anti-J&K, anti-Muslim.Even questioning the Crime Branch charge sheet on discrepancies or showing lack of faith in investigation invited pro-rapists tag. It was made out as if demand for CBI probe meant to deprive the unfortunate victim of justice.By same yardstick, the Bar Council of India too can be called pro- rapists as it has supported demand for CBI probe in its report to SC on “misconduct” of Jammu and Kathua lawyers.It is totally unconvincing as CBI probe in Unnao in UP, in Gurgaon or anywhere else in India brings justice to the victims but can’t be in Jammu.Apart from high degree of professionalism, CBI probe is free from local pressure and unbiased.
It was interesting to see PDP’s thumps- up to the national media especially the TV channels for their noisy debates that created anti-CBI probe and pro- CB sensational story of the crime. Not long ago, Mehbooba Mufti was very critical of these channels for their jingoistic evening debates on Kashmir that vitiated the local atmosphere, just for the sake of their TRPs. But, these noisy debates on Rassana case have now endeared these ‘condemned news channels’ to Kashmir, as they followed Kashmir’s faith in CB investigation and critical of Jammu’s peaceful bandh for four demands including CBI probe. So happy with this new national trend, the PDP lauded”the countrymen for standing with Jammu and Kashmir (read Kashmir) over Rassana rape and murder case” and “hoped for the same kind of support from the country on other issues in the State”.
But the things are now changing. New revelations and contradictions have put a question mark on CB charge sheet. J&K High Court is hearing a petition for CBI enquiry filed by the former Advocate General U K Jalali bringing out some glaring discrepancies including alteration of medical report. There are two separate medical reports with different findings. Recently, Zee TV has flashed a CCTV video showing oneof the accused standing in a queue before an ATM inMeerapur, Muzaffar Nagar, UP on the day and timewhen he wasaccused to be committing crime in Rassana.
The SC has held that while the victim must get justice but at the same time the accused too are entitled to get fair investigation and trial. Investigation should appear to be fair that should infuse public confidence in it. This is not so in this case. The CB sleuths must have done their investigation professionally and even persons arrested for beastly act might also be the same but unfortunately,the public perception is somewhat different. General public isentitled to know the truth otherwise even the punishment would continue haunt the already polarized regions of the State.
By police’s ownexperience,its investigation cannot be taken as gospel’s truth. What to talk of the police even the CBI doesn’t have cent percent conviction rate. So, if sizable segment of population had expressed lackfaith in the CB investigation on certain ground like presence of tainted officials in SIT, two separate medical reports, impossibility of the victim having been kept in ‘devasthan ‘etc, what was the harm if nationally acclaimed agency would have been asked to investigate it. That would have prevented controversies and communal polarisation in Jammu. Had the same persons found to be the real sinner, the stock of the State police would have gone skyrocketing! But now after filing challan, only the Supreme Court or High Court alone can order CBI probe based on material placed before it. They will take a call on it sooner than later.
While crime is a crime and must be dealt with under the law but bringing religion and region in it hasmade it a politically explosive. That explains practically zero debate on another shameful rape of a Muslim minor girl in a madrassa by a young Muslim cleric at a village in Nagrota and flesh trade of Kulgam allegedly involving school girls, police and a PDP leader. It is nobody’s case that the accused in Rassana rape case are allowed to go scot free. CBI probe or not, the real sinners must get severest possible punishment so that no one dares to even think of touching “kanjak” in future.Apart from giving justice to the girl, it is also the question of Jammu’s honour and survival of its traditions of communal harmony, amity and peaceful coexistence.