The dastardly incident of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua in January has sent shockwaves across the country and abroad. Here in Kashmir, as we come to terms with so many similar tragedies – many names permanently emblazoned in our heart — this act of barbarism has torn apart our heart and soul. Such dreadful acts and their perpetrators need not only to be condemned in the strongest terms but also be brought to justice.
There was indeed wide outrage over these incidents, but shockingly in Jammu, some fanatic elements belonging to Hindutva affiliations, under the banner of Hindu Ekta Manch, have constantly been protesting in favour of the arrested rapists/murderers who were brought to book by the Crime Branch after thorough evidence collection. Outrageously, rallies and protests have also been held in Kathua and Jammu in which two cabinet ministers belonging to BJP also participated. After much outrage, these two ministers have now been forced to resign.
However, both these ministers are still standing their ground that a CBI inquiry be held. We know already that the entire investigation by the Crime Branch was sought to be hampered at every level – lawyers of the Kathua Bar Council affiliated with the Hindu Ekta Manch and other right-wing groups protested against the Crime Branch, and were later joined by the Jammu Bar Council and political parties like BJP.
Even more appalling has been the role of the Bar Council of India which was supposed to ascertain the facts pertaining to the communal stand taken by the Bar Councils of Jammu and Kathua.
From the reports in the press, it is understood that when the matter with respect to the Kathua incident came up before the Supreme Court of India, a committee of the Bar Council of India (BCI) filed a report saying that the lawyers’ protests for a probe by the CBI into the gangrape and murder of the Kathua girl child was “justified”. Now, a BCI panel has no authority to submit such a report. The Supreme Court never directed them to file any such report as to whether a CBI investigation was justified or not. They were only directed to inquire and find out whether local lawyers had obstructed the filing of the chargesheet by the police/the trial proceedings.
A CBI investigation is a demand made by the accused and the Hindu Ekta Manch. The accused have no right to demand such investigation. They can’t choose the investigating authority. The attempt of the BCI is to give legitimacy to this illegal demand of the accused and the Hindu Ekta Manch and to influence the investigating officers/police, prosecution and thereby deny fair trial to the victim.
This is utterly shameful and ridiculous by all standards. It has also brought into question the credibility of institutions like BCI among the already alienated citizens of the state. In any case, the credibility of many Institutions are already under question in the state – but the roles of the Jammu Bar Council and BCI are now being seen as extremely pathetic. Both have shed all norms of civility and rule of law which cannot be allowed to happen in a democracy. Relevant questions need to be asked by every organ of the society regarding the unlawful and unbecoming roles of these Bar Councils who are ironically supposed to uphold the sanctity of law.