A Tale of Two Cities: Between the Crudely Political and Compassionate Humanitarianism

A Tale of Two Cities: Between the Crudely Political and Compassionate Humanitarianism
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The differential response of two communities over a two different incidents, one in Hira Nagar and another in Levdora, leaves a striking image of harmony and incongruity. The former pertains to the savage rape and murder of an eight year old “nomad” girl and the latter to community adoption of four Hindu children who were orphaned at a very young age in Kashmir’s Levdora.
That the rape and murder of Asifa could not stir people’s conscience in Hira Nagar where she was brutally murdered, but the Muslim community of Levdora adopted four Hindu children might constitute a metaphor for the nature of community relations and attitudes thereof in the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides being reflective or even constitutive of the evolving belief and perhaps even cultural systems of the two regions, the sordid politicization of Asifa’s rape and murder is a travesty.
This is because some or even many people in Jammu have ceased responding to circumstances on the basis of humanity; they no longer seek to apply the humanitarian angle and prism on varied issues. The rape and murder of Asifa validates this assertion. What other than this explains the support for the accused who committed such a savage and gory act that it would stir the hearts of even the dead, so to speak?
The saga does not end with mobilization of support for the accused. But, the height of the matter is that Hindu right-wing groups think that they can influence an investigation agency like the CBI for which they are demanding the case be transferred to them. (The case in contention, it may be pointed out, is being investigated by the best team of the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir police). This naturally raises eye brows given that the CBI is not above political manipulation and interference. The alleged fake encounter case of Sohrabudin Shaikh have constitutes a case in point here.
The case, according to the investigations conducted by the Crime Branch, is clear cut, in the nature of an open and shut one. By way of a digression here, it has been established by eminent scholars and sober analysis, that in conditions of conflict, rape can or even is employed as a technique to cow down and intimidate opponents into submission. While the rape murder of Asifa does not have institutional backing, but the motive of the accused, who appears to have acted solo, corresponds to the use of rape and murder as an intimidating tactic. The accused wanted to scare away Muslim nomads by raping and killing the minor girl.
Now, reverting to the contrast between Asifa’s rape murder and the adoption of Hindu children by the Muslim community, it suggests that people of the Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir have always tried to be helpful and nice to their Hindu neighbors. In the strife torn village of South Kashmir’s Levdora, a Muslim family adopted four Hindu children who lost both their parents. It bears mention here that Nancy Koul, the mother of the four minor children, had been recruited in the bank as peon early last year after her husband’s, an employee of the bank, passed away last year. The Koul family never migrated from the village , not even in 1990’s when almost the entire Hindu community migrated to Jammu or other parts of India.
The family had close ties with their Muslim neighbors and would enjoy good rapport in the village though this area had seen intense armed struggle and is still treated ‘black’ in the military language. The eldest of the daughter in the Koul family is just seventeen years of age, goes to school supported by the Muslim family.
The Muslim community, in fact, brought this case to the notice of the director ICPS (Integrated Child Protection Scheme), Hilal Ahmad and pleaded for support to the orphaned children. The department readily agrees to support two of the children in the family. An order in this case was issued, providing monthly stipend to the orphaned children.
This tale of two cities, so to speak, appears to representative of the nature of inter communal relations in the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Asifa’s rape murder and the reaction that followed it suggests polarization and communalization of politics in Jammu and adoption of the Hindu girls by a Muslim family in Levdora Kashmir suggests that Kashmir, despite the militarization of the conflict remains wedded to values of humanity and co existence. By way of a conclusion, it is hoped that the primacy of the crudely political gives way to morality , ethics and humanity. Perhaps the best indicator of this would be punishment of the accused in the murder and rape of little Asifa Bano.

— The author is a Senior Journalist. He can be reached at: bilalbhatt@gmail.com