There are so many discussions about growing up in new India amid widespread viciousness and hatred in the air.
While we keep fretting about raising children in this environment, I suddenly realised the rape victim from Kathua didn't grow up at all.
At least not in years.
I am sure she grew up in the moments her tiny, frail body was brutalised, in the moments when she opened her eyes in her drug-induced state to see what her perverted perpetrators were doing to her numb frame.
I wonder if the man in Meerut, to whom the message "satisfy your lust" had been sent so he could join the gang-rape, saw her as a child or just a body.
I don’t like the clichéd “Kya tumhare ghar mein maa behen nahin hai?” (Don’t you have a mother or sister at home?)
But this is the only phrase that comes to mind every time I read about what was done to the little girl.
For the past few days, I haven’t been able to sleep. Those big, bright eyes follow me everywhere. I see her tiny body lying on the ground, face down, like a broken toy. If I sound incoherent and emotional it is because I am unable to think clearly.
Every rape is inhuman and sickens me but this has shaken me to the core. I’ve been only thinking about it and wondering why.
This rape and brutalisation of a girl has shaken me not just because she was a child.
It has shaken me not because she was a Muslim, or because her religion is neither here nor there.
It has shaken me because of the naked hatred that it represents. Hatred so vicious that the little girl’s rapists were so carried away by their hatred that they did not think twice before raping her inside a temple.
A child was gang-raped after performing rituals.
They waited to kill a child who was probably already dead because a policeman wanted to rape her one last time?
From where did this hatred for her community come?
Most news reports say the motive was to evict the nomadic Bakarwal community of Jammu and Kashmir from Jammu region to prevent a demographic change. The idea was to scare them into subjugation so that they left.
Even after the body of the child was found, the community was threatened, rallies were taken out in support of the little child’s rapists, the Indian flag was used for the protests, and two BJP ministers and some Congress members were also present at the demonstrations.
When charges were to be filed, lawyers prevented the police from entering the court. A temple was used to rape the little girl, slogans of Jai Shri Ram were raised to prevent the police from doing its duty in getting the rapists punished. The tricolour was used to provoke people.
Has hatred numbed every sense?
This is not the first time rape has been used as a tool of war to subjugate those who are considered a threat.
As this piece in Tehelka rightly points out: “Rape is used as a violent means to subdue, humiliate and control a population. There are fears among the community because anyone of them might be next.”
Rape is used as a tool of war because it hits at the status patriarchy accords to women — of a person that carries on that particular community — if you destroy a womb, you can destroy not just that person but also their ability to procreate.
Is that why the child’s uterus was damaged?
Rape is a means of asserting power over a community — the masculine over the feminine.
Is that why they chose the little girl as their victim to send a message to the Bakarwal community?
According to a report by the Physicians for Human Rights, rape is used as a weapon for many ends, which include: instilling terror into the civil population, humiliating and degrading individuals including their families and communities, furthering an agenda of cultural and ethnic destruction and exploiting the stigma that falls upon rape victims and their children to weaken marital and communal relations, destroying group bonds, causing pervasive and even deadly effects for women in particular.
That is not enough; rape is also used to displace a population. That was the aim of the Kathua girl's rapists.
We need to think long and hard: is this who we want to become?
Are we so consumed by hatred that we will use Shri Ram’s name to shield a child’s rapists?
Are we so consumed by hatred that we will use our national flag to protect a child’s rapists because they belong to our community and the raped, murdered child was born into a religion that WhatsApp forwards tell us to hate and which some TV channels too provoke us against?
Are we so consumed by hatred that we will we use our holy spaces for ungodly and criminal acts, because our WhatsApp forwards pump in fake news against a particular community and few TV channels spread that fake news?
Are we so consumed by hatred that we will burn in its fires ourselves?
Why we are silent?
Every person needs to raise his or her voice against rape. Every rape.
For every rape, be it at Kathua or at Unnao, is not just a violation of a body but the rape of humanity itself.