As if last year’s traumatic experience of Khatua was not enough to lacerate our moral fiber – where a teenage girl fell prey to the lust of the demented males and lost her life – another female toddler has met with the near same fate in Sumbal, Bandipur. Understandably, whole Valley is up in outrage. Alas ; we don’t have a hint that other parts of the state feel same way.
What can one say of a society which has no compunction in taking up adversarial positions even in a matter as despicable as rape and death of a girl child? We have seen in the past and continue to see it today. Indifference of other parts of the state to the tragedy is the illustration. Rape is an assault on female victim’s total being and lacerates society as a whole. It doesn’t stigmatize victim alone but shames us all .
Is this other aspect of collateral damage the three decade old conflict has inflicted on us? The constant violence – physical and psychological – created by the ongoing conflict has instilled in us a sense of a fear, vulnerability and helplessness. We have become desensitized even to ourselves and feel happy to construct “ the other “ to make him an object of suspicion and accusation. We have been afflicted with a malaise that even a crime against women is taken as an object to raise passions against one another and set up competing political postures. Far too extraneous and inappropriate matters are interjected in to deflect the real issue.
This is our tragedy that we tend to see everything in terms of ‘ Azadi and Nationalism “ One must understand that in this political game the only beneficiary is perpetrator of the crime. Our quest to outsmart one another on a political chess board ends up in denying justice to the very person for whom we claim to stand up . Such is the extent that even we view the matter in religious and regional terms which ought to be seen in unadulterated term as a heinous crime committed not only on a teenage girl but against us all. That factor alone should determine our response to this inhuman act.
This is the time to listen to Mirwaiz Ummer Farooq’s who counsels calm and self introspection and advises against getting swayed by emotions, lest the victim is denied justice.
Crime is community, caste and creed neutral. There should not be a selective indignation nor a community based approach towards it. Nature of the crime committed on a teen aged girl is anger arousing, across the board. We must rise in one and demand that the perpetrators of the crime be brought to the justice.
There are allegations that the accused has, in connivance with a school teacher, manipulated his DOB to show him minor to escape the rigor of the law . There is a public demand that accused in this case be charged under POSCO law and not RPC. It is pertinent to note that state has drafted The Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice ( Care and Protection of Children ) Bill 2018 – which proposes to replace J&K Juvenile Justice ( Care And Protection of Children ) Act 2013 .
The Bill has incorporated significant provisions to the Juvenile law of the state which are found in the Central Juvenile Justice ( Care And Protection of Children) Act 2015 . These measures are with respect to the children who are in the age group of 15 -18 and for streamlining the adoption process. This marks an improvement over Juvenile Justice ( Care and Protection of children ) Act 2000 – now repealed.
The Bill introduces concept of “Judicial Waiver System “. According to Sections 15 -18 of the Bill, a child who has completed or is above the age of 16 years and is alleged to have committed a heinous offence shall be tried as an adult. Heinous offences are those offences for which the minimum punishment under RPC or any other law for the time being in force is imprisonment for seven years or more.
The Bill has evoked strong reaction among some circles in Kashmir. Objection has been taken on the grounds that Judicial Waiver will be detrimental to the youth of the Valley and the Adoption provision will affect State Subject laws and demographic character of the state. It is said that under the Judicial Waiver System many ‘ innocent’ children will be booked. Even a poor stone-pelter will fall in the net who, in the given legal frame work, would be dealt with rather leniently. Remember, Waiver would be invoked only if children in 16 – 18 age group commit heinous offence. As per the National Crime Record Bureau, in the year 2011 -64 % of the crimes has been committed by juveniles between the age of 16 -18, including heinous crimes. Sooner than latter our state will have to contend with the challenge. The Bill introduces comprehensive provisions regarding Adoption and Foster care. It is inappropriate to invoke Art 370 when Bill makes no departure from these provisions. The emerging situation demands an unbiased look at the whole issue.
But then law alone will not yield desired results. We need a specialized and sensitized Police personal to deal with the situation arising out of an outrage caused against women – more so where victim is a child. Society cannot shirk its responsibility.
(B L Saraf is Former Principal District & Sessions Judge)