Several students, youth and civil society members protested here at Pratap Park, Srinagar demanding justice for 8-yr old Ashifa who was raped and murdered in Kathua after being drugged and tortured for several days inside a temple.
Student activist Shehla Rashid led the protest during which she said, “This is a protest against the rape, torture and murder of an innocent girl, Ashifa Bano. This is a protest against the blatant attempts to communalise the case. BJP is hereby warned to keep its dirty politics out of the state. We won’t allow a Gujarat to happen here. Don’t these so-called lawyers have children? Can they not even empathise with a child? What kind of a society have we become?”
The protesters demanded arrest of the lawyers who tried to obstruct justice by not allowing the Crime Branch to file a chargesheet in the case. Their arrest and interrogation is important to understand the motives and the larger planning behind the disturbing act by the lawyers.
They also demanded that the trial should be transferred outside of Kathua, in order to ensure fair trial. Citing the example of 2005 sex scandal that rocked the J&K state, Shehla Rashid said that the case was transferred to Chandigarh because the lawyers in Srinagar had refused to appear for the accused. It was argued that, for a fair trial to happen, the accused should have legal representation. Similarly, the Ashifa case should be transferred either to Jammu or Srinagar or to a court outside J&K where the trial can proceed without fear and disruption. Monday’s incident has proved that the environment in Kathua is not conducive for a fair trial. How will the witnesses depose in such an environment? What is the guarantee that the witnesses won’t be intimidated tomorrow? Who will represent the family as public prosecutor? Will they be fair? How will the CJM conduct a fair trial when it took him 6 hours to accept the chargesheet, citing law and order problems?
The protesters, who had assembled without a banner, demanded removal of Cabinet Ministers Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga who had participated in pro-rape rallies. “This is the very least that CM Mehbooba Mufti can do,” said Shehla Rashid.
Protesters expressed their solidarity with Ashifa’s family and with the vulnerable nomadic community to which Ashifa belonged. Shehla Rashid said that the manner in which the members of the Gujjar Bakerwal communities are being terrorised is shameful. Earlier also, there was an incident where so-called “GaU Rakshaks” beat up an elderly tribal man. This shocking promotion of violence in society is being sponsored and backed by the BJP.
Shehla Rashid also expressed solidarity with students of Kashmir University who are staging a sit-in protest against the heinous crime. She also hailed the efforts of Gujjar Bakarwal Students Welfare Association in raising awareness about the issue, and extended solidarity to them.
Former JNUSU President, Mohit Pandey, who is accompanying Shehla Rashid on her trip, added that people backed by BJP are engaging in crimes against women and minorities throughout the country. This is because BJP has been given a free hand to communal, casteist and misogynistic elements. On 7th of April, a minor girl along with her family tried to commit suicide in front of UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s residence alleging that she was raped by BJP MP from Unnao and his brother. This is shameful and shocking. It is not that only BJP people commit rape. But BJP is shielding such people and supporting them, as was evident from the case of Atul Johri – a professor at JNU who was accused of sexual abuse by 10 girls working in his lab! “We urge women and youth across communities to unite against sexual violence and rape,” said Pandey.
After the protest, Shehla Rashid led the youth to Raj Bagh bund where they teared off Environment Minister Choudhary Lal Singh’s name and face from the posters containing messages about use of polythene. Shehla Rashid said that we are not tearing off the message, we are only tearing off his face and name, and we urge youth across Srinagar city to do the same. While she was tearing off the posters, students accompanying her raised slogans like, “Choudhary Lal Singh Murdabad” and “Asifa ka dushman, Choudhary Lal Singh Murdabad.”