A Mirza Ghalib quoting district and sessions judge Tejwinder Singh in his order delivered in Pathankot, on what is called the “Kathua case” — in which an eight-year-old girl was brutalised — referred to the perpetrators of this heinous crime as men who behaved like “there is a law of the jungle prevalent in our society”. It pains one to say this, but the learned judge was stating the obvious. The Kathua case, which horrified and shocked the country, only succeeded in underlining the deep sickness plaguing our dysfunctional, disjointed and fragmented society. A sickness that goes beyond sexual assault, beyond perversions, beyond cruelty and beyond sadism. What is this condition called? Is there a name for such depravity? Since the Kathua crime, committed on January 10, 2018 hit national headlines and the victim’s shell-shocked father filed a missing person report, there have been countless similar crimes involving the most vulnerable members of our nation — helpless little girls. In the Kathua case seven persons, including four cops, were involved. The main conspirator is a retired revenue officer, and believe it or not, a priest of the temple where the female child was held, drugged, raped and murdered. A devil named Deepak Khajuria (a special police officer), is the villain who begged to be allowed to “rape her one last time” before she was killed. One cannot insult the animal kingdom by describing these men as “jaanwars”. And this crime goes well beyond the learned judge’s description. Since, even the “law of the jungle” has its own rules and codes. Have you ever heard of an animal “conspiracy” to sexually assault and kill the young of another? The real savages are those who live amongst us and pretend to be “civilised” and “educated” human beings. These assaulters held positions in government. They were technically educated. They wielded power — a power they chose to abuse in a manner so grotesque and abhorrent, one wonders about the lives of these psychopaths and how they believed they’d get away with the crime. Thanks to the Supreme Court fast-tracking the case and asking for the trial to be conducted on camera, six convictions were confirmed earlier this week. A juvenile accused, tutored by Anand Dutta, an assistant inspector of police, to destroy the evidence for a bribe of Rs 4 lakhs (paid by the murderer-priest, Sanji Ram), is yet to be tried.
Is five years in jail enough of a punishment for those who conspired to destroy the evidence? Is a life term for the three main accused sufficient? These are questions that really do not have clear-cut answers. A tender young life has been savagely snuffed out. Whether these men now rot in jail or not matters little. The murdered child’s father, a nomadic Bakharwal from the higher reaches of Kashmir, said with utmost dignity and immense grace that he wants to go back to Kathua and sit by his baby girl’s grave for a long time, offering prayers and expressing his gratitude for the verdict. Imagine! Look at this man’s incredible strength of character! No vengeful words. No hate. Just deeply felt sorrow that may never heal his wounds, but offers much needed solace. The grieving father does not seek revenge or the death sentence for those degraded creatures who snatched away his little one. He seeks peace and closure. What a remarkable man.
Without going into the gory details about the more recent Aligarh murder of a two-and-a-half year old girl child, whose mutilated body was found in a dumping ground, it makes one ask: Have horrific sexual crimes against infants — little girls and little boys — become so commonplace that soon a time may come when we turn immune and turn away, dismissing it as another sordid manifestation of our own hideousness? That will be the most pathetic response to an ongoing tragedy we are clearly unable to deal with. Sometimes I watch teenage boys aimlessly loitering around Mumbai’s streets hooked to their mobile phones. Most, I am told, are watching hardcore pornography since it is accessible and more significantly — free. Sexual violence forms the core of most such sites. Kids assume it is “normal”, even desirable. Most of the recent cases of sexual crimes involve juveniles who have either been instigated to participate in the gangrape of a child, or have done so without thinking of the consequences.
One dreads to wake up and read the front page these days. The frequency of gruesome crimes against children has gone up drastically — or so it appears — since we don’t really possess sufficient data. So many incidents are unreported. Most go unpunished. The worst aspect of these reports is the direct involvement of cops. For each Kathua or Aligarh murder, there are hundreds of undetected cases. I am not even cataloguing the rapes and murders committed by family members to settle scores. Suspending the Internet, as has happened in Tappal, Aligarh, will not bring back the two-and-a-half year old infant. Neither will the reintroduction of the ridiculously dubbed “romeo squads” by chief minister Yogi Adityanath take away the shame of five rapes a week in his state of Uttar Pradesh. Intensified vigilance is but one small measure to protect victims. But more than any of these State measures, we need a crash course in introspection — the sickness in our society is reaching epidemic levels. We have to save our children and women — whatever it takes.