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Saturday, January 18, 2020

What a child’s death tells us

One other group of Indians remained unmoved by what happened to the little girl. Hindutva hyper-nationalists. Their voice has got louder, angrier and uglier in the past three years, and especially on social media.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published: April 15, 2018 1:05:49 am
Kathua rape and murder case India has been rocked by the gory incidents in Kathua and Unnao as students and opposition takes to streets, government is still silent. (Representational Image)

The little girl was defiled twice. When she lived, by the monsters who gangraped, tortured and killed her, and after her death, by our political class, whose cynicism has been truly astounding. You would have to be sub-human to see those two pictures of her and not feel the terror this baby girl would have lived through in the last days of her sadly short life. The whole country felt the pain and the shame of her rape and murder except our ‘leaders’.

They behaved as if it were perfectly normal for a little girl to have been imprisoned, drugged and raped for days in a temple. With the collusion of the police. So unmoved were they by what happened to the child that ‘leaders’ of our two biggest national parties took turns to go on hunger strike to try and blame each other for Parliament having become dysfunctional. It was only when the media started to reflect the outrage, horror and shame ordinary Indians were feeling, that they began to respond with their standard, empty statements.

Personally, when I hear a political leader say that ‘the law will take its own course’, I know it will not. And if it does, it will be decades for that course to reach its end. The child’s family had the courage (despite policemen colluding in what happened to her) to register a case, but Jammu’s lawyers blocked the law from moving an inch forward because Hindutva hyper-nationalism blinded them to anything other than that the victim was Muslim and the rapists Hindu. They should have been arrested for blocking the course of the law, but the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir proved ineffectual as always.

One other group of Indians remained unmoved by what happened to the little girl. Hindutva hyper-nationalists. Their voice has got louder, angrier and uglier in the past three years, and especially on social media. Every time I tweeted about the girl, I was deluged with tweets from enraged Hindutva types demanding to know why I was not speaking for Hindu girls raped in Assam and West Bengal. I will tell you why. When a child is raped and brutally murdered I do not ask what her religion was. But hyper-nationalists do, and although they think they are great Indian patriots, they could be India’s biggest enemies. In my book, their nationalism is so venomous and deranged that it harms India in a very dangerous way.

Their nationalism is not the kind of nationalism that defined the movement that brought India freedom from colonial rule. That kind of nationalism I saw in the spirit of the young men and women I met in Champaran last week. More than 20,000 ‘Swachhagrahis’ gathered to hear the Prime Minister praise them for helping create a social and sanitation revolution in their villages. These young people were motivated only by their passion to make India a better country. They slept together in huge tented dormitories without asking the caste or religion of the person who slept in the next bed. They were not motivated by hatred, venom or a sense of grievance against Muslims. Their eyes look to the future.

The hyper-nationalists, for their part, wallow and seethe in a stew of memories of what Muslim invaders did to India centuries ago. They believe that Narendra Modi is the first real Hindu ruler in more than a thousand years, and that now is their time to take revenge against all Muslims. As the girl’s father told The Indian Express, she was too young to know what it meant to be Muslim or Hindu. “She couldn’t tell which hand was right and which left,” he said through his tears. But to hyper-nationalists, she was a Muslim girl, so what happened to her was revenge for what was done to Hindu women by Muslim invaders. I am not making this up. Trawl through the tweets of Hindutva hyper-nationalists and you will see.

What is worrying is the seeming inablity of our ‘leaders’ to see the damage that is being done to the fabric of Indian society by hyper-nationalism. Real nationalism is a good thing. It creates heroes and patriots who have the courage to give their lives and the lives of their sons to defend India. Hyper-nationalism creates cowards, not heroes. The young men we have seen too many times in vigilante mobs in the past three years are never likely to join the Army and fight to defend India’s borders. Cowards need the safety of mobs to show their ‘valour’. Cowards need little girls to rape and kill. Cowards need to wrap themselves in the national flag and prevent justice from being done as Jammu’s lawyers showed us last week.

The awful death of this little child has held up a mirror to India’s face and it looks so ugly that our leaders could be too frightened to speak.

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