SRINAGAR In a welcome turnaround, there has suddenly been an outpouring of empathy for Asifa, the eight year old victim of the brutal rape and murder carried out over seven days. The shift has been made possible by a wide coverage of the chilling details of the crime contained in the Crime Branch charge-sheet, rendering the already appalling support for the accused further indefensible.
The growing tide of civil society empathy has, in turn, forced the political parties to fall in line, including even the BJP, at least its national leadership. The minister of state for foreign affairs General V K Singh was the first to depart from the party’s oppressive silence over the issue and the implicit support for the accused. Singh said “we had failed Asifa as humans”.
Following this, the Congress, whose leadership in Jammu had hitherto either sided with the accused or adopted a pusilanimous silence over the right-wing support for them, too made bold to speak. The president Rahul Gandhi held a midnight vigil for Asifa. But the gesture was blended with the politics too: Public expression of support for Asifa became easier for the party after it found a case of rape from the majority community, one which also suited it politically.
But the support from the Bollywood, sports persons and the other prominent personalities have made all the difference and transformed the discourse on Asifa. The hashtags about Asifa have racked up thousands of tweets.
But the new online groundswell in favour of Asifa hasn’t pushed the BJP in Jammu on the defensive. So, it has’t the groups like Hindu Ekta Manch and Jammu High Court Bar Association who continue to demand the CBI probe in the case. And, in fact, the BJP does too.
“We still demand that the case should be handed over to CBI. The crime branch is harassing and has targeted many innocents, the BJP spokesperson Ashok Kaul has said.
So, a cynical electoral politics continues to be played over the horrible crime.
But there’s now a welcome disconnect between the politics of the state BJP, the allied right-wing outfits in Jammu and the national political and media discourse. The growing chorus of solidarity with Asifa across the political and religious divide has created a rare opportunity to heal the social rupture that India has witnessed over the past four years. And it has once again brought India face to face with the corrosive nature of the existing ruling ideology and direction in which it is taking the country. The rape in Unnao only further reinforces this realization. And in an election year it can prove decisive.
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