Twelve years after the sex abuse scandal involving politicians, senior bureaucrats, and police officials came to light, the court has convicted five people. The guilty include former J&K DSP Mohammed Ashraf Mir, former DIG, BSF, KC Padhi, while businessman Mehrajuddin Malik and former J&K advocate Anil Sethi have been acquitted. The court will pronounce the quantum of the punishment on June 4. It was the discovery of two video CDs showing Kashmiri minors being sexually exploited that brought the scandal out into the open. And the extent of the scam shocked the state. It turned out that the minors were forced into the sex trade and exploited by the people in position of power. Soon after the protests broke out across Srinagar. In Habba Kadal, the mob burned down the kingpin Sabina’s house
In the early proceedings of the case, the court had disclosed that Sabina and another victim girl had named 56 people and 34 girls as being a part of the sex abuse ring in the Valley. Later on, the case was handed over to CBI. The team set up an office in Srinagar for three months to carry out the investigation.
Though the convictions in the case are welcome, the political situation that created the conditions for the scandal remain unchanged. The scandal also reveals that the impunity enjoyed by the senior civil and security functionaries in the state is not just limited to the militancy related aspects of the state but extends to sexual violence against women too. The powerful people in the state think they can also get away with the immoral activity. Like political honesty, moral integrity is also at a discount in the state. This exposes our political system for what it is. The democracy in the state despite its trappings has come to operate more as a facade than a fact. For the sins the politicians in the rest of India lose their political careers and are publicly disgraced, the politicians in J&K are not only likely to get a clean chit but more often than not prosper in their calling. This once again exposes the democracy in the state as a political system that operates with a great degree of indifference to the expectations of the people who ironically are supposed to have put it in place. Having said that, the people too share some blame. Some of the influential leaders involved in the scam were subsequently re-elected despite the serious charges of corruption and sexual misconduct against them.
Of course, it would be comforting to dismiss the scandal as a one-off development. Political set-up anywhere is prone to throw up the scams like these but that doesnt detract from its particularly galling nature. The scam, at one level, shows a certain deep contempt for Kashmiris among the ruling class. It reveals a mindset which considers Kashmiri girls a fair game. So, one can take heart from the fact that some of the dirty cast of characters have at last been held guilty and will have to pay for their sins. One can also hope that the judgement goes some way to bring more accountability into the system, more so in regard to crimes against women.
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