Yasin Malik leads JRL protest rally, civil society begins ‘solidarity campaign’
Srinagar: Hundreds of people including civil society members, students and pro-freedom leaders on Thursday held joint rallies and protests here against the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua.
The participants included Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs, who jointly demanded a speedy probe in the case and capital punishment to the culprits.
The rallies and protests were organised by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) to put up a united face against the ghastly incident, which has led to a communal divide in Jammu’s Kathua district with a newly-formed outfit, the Hindu Ekta Manch, rallying in favour of the accused.
The JRL protest rally was led by Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Muhammad Yasin Malik. Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq couldn’t participate in the rally because police put them under house arrest soon after the leaders called for the protest. Later, Malik was also detained by police along with other protestors as soon as they began their march from Abi Guzar towards Lal Chowk. Government forces resorted to lathi-charge and detained Malik and other pro-freedom activists.
Senior leader Showkat Bakshi, Kashmiri Pandit leader and academician Prof Chunni Lal Vishen, APDP chairperson Parveena Ahangar, Christian priest Father Veenu, and Sikh trader Davendar Singh also participated in the rally.
Addressing the rally via telephone, Geelani strongly condemned the rape and murder and said, “I am deeply pained by the incident. It’s barbaric, to say the least.”
Geelani said the administration had failed to take the Kathua case seriously, despite threats being issued against the victim’s family and other minorities.
“Such incidents are not new in India. Weak people are being suppressed and threatened. In Kathua, men in uniform raped and killed the little girl because police and civil administration in Jammu didn’t show seriousness,” Geelani said.
Geelani also castigated BJP leaders for organising a rally in Jammu in support of the accused. “Some people organised rallies in favour of rapists and killers. They were protesting amid police protection. It is a blot on humanity and shameful on part of the government,” he said.
Geelani said that minority communities in Jammu were being harassed through criminal intimidation and sexual assault. “Minorities are being looted assaulted regularly. And everything is happening under the glaring eyes of ruling parties and people who are at the helm of affairs. They act as stooges and as deaf-mute spectators,” he said.
“Saner voices of India should join us in helping the victim family to come out of their mental agony. We hope that all conscientious people and intellectuals would extend their moral support as they did in favour of the New Delhi gang-rape victim so that perpetrators get no escape and are punished for their heinous crime,” he said.
In his address, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq blamed the PDP-BJP government for “strengthening communal elements”.
“Minorities in Jammu including Gujjars and Bakherwals are facing harassment ever since PDP-BJP came into power in J&K,” he said.
Mirwaiz demanded strict action against the culprits and said that some people were giving a communal colour to the incident. “Perpetrators are being supported instead of being punished. If such a situation continues, it will vitiate the atmosphere in J&K. The government should be ready for consequences,” he said.
Yasin Malik said that “Muslims are being labeled with many tags in India, which is led by the fascist government in New Delhi. They use love jihad and beef as a tool to do so,” he said.
“In Kashmir, India’s image is getting exposed as people are rallying in favour of rapists only because the accused belong to their religion,” he said.
Prof Vishen appealed the government to give harsh punishment to the culprits. “We condemn this incident and everyone should seek strict punishment,” he said.
Father Veenu said everyone should listen to their conscience and demand harsh punishment to the culprits.
“Government shouldn’t appear weak,” he said. “J&K should become an inspiration for everyone because we are politically disturbed, not mentally.”
Solidarity Campaign by civil society
Meanwhile, civil society members started a solidarity campaign in favour of the victim and her family on social media. The campaign members also held a silent sit-in at Pratap Park and demanded stern action against the culprits.
“The gruesome rape and murder of the minor girl in Kathua has shaken the foundations of our society and marred our soul. We demand a speedy investigation to punish the perpetrators,” said Rayees Rasool, one of the campaigners.
The protest was joined by students, civil society members, and trade union leaders. Organistions part of the campaign are Kashmir Centre for Development and Social Studies (KCDS) through its chairperson Hameedah Nayeem, members Shakeel Qalander, Abdul Majeed Zargar, Mubeen Shah and Anwar Ashai; FCIK President Mukhtar Yusuf, Doctors Association Kashmir, and trade bodies.
“We want to inform the government that we have initiated a committed protest to make sure that this case is taken to its logical end and the perpetrators are punished,” they said in a joint statement.
“Our peaceful protests will continue in varied forms to ensure that the communal and biased forces do not become successful in aiding the release of the perpetrators and harassing the Gujjar community,” they said.
“We demand the safety and security and victim family, the concerned activists who are also harassed, and the Gujjar community at large to ensure there are no impediments in their struggle as they deal with this enormous tragedy. We promise that we will not rest till the criminals receive a punishment that matches the trauma and suffering meted out on an innocent child,” the campaigners said.