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Countrywide protests demanding justice in Kathua and Unnao rape cases
 
(New Delhi, Apr 16, 2018):Thousands of people protested across the country on Sunday as outrage grew over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu’s Kathua and the sexual assault of a teenager in Unnao, a day after another case of the brutal rape and murder of a minor girl was reported in Surat.

Carrying banners and shouting slogans, the protesters marched in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru, Jammu and other cities, demanding that the government quickly prosecute those accused in the rape cases.

Candle light vigils were also held at a few places, including Gujarat’s Surat. The city’s police said a minor was allegedly held captive, tortured and raped before being killed recently. Her body — found on April 6 — had 86 injury marks. She is believed to have been between nine and 11 years of age.

Many protesters expressed anger at the Bharatiya Janata Party, alleging that its leaders in Jammu and Kashmir were initially siding with the accused in the Kathua case. The eight-year-old girl in Kathua’s Rasana village belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe, the Bakarwals, and the charge sheet says she was tortured and killed to scare the community away.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the crimes against women a “shame” for the country and asserted that the guilty will not be spared.

“I want to assure the nation that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done. Our daughters will get justice. We all will have to work together to end this internal evil,” he said.

Sunday’s protests brought back memories of massive outpouring across India triggered by the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in December 16, 2012, in the national capital that led to stricter rape laws in the country.

More than 500 people gathered at the Parliament Street in Delhi with ‘Not in My Name’ banners, demanding the immediate dismissal of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly protecting Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his party’s Unnao MLA, in the rape case.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal joined the protests along with Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal near Rajghat, where she is holding an indefinite hunger strike to demand the setting up of more fast-track courts to complete trials in rape cases of minors within six months. Maliwal is also demanding the death penalty for people convicted for raping minors. A silent protest was also held by the Delhi Pradesh Youth Congress near the Rajiv Chowk metro station.

In Jammu, people of different faiths pledged to maintain communal harmony, and demanded capital punishment for the culprits involved in the rape-and-murder of the 8-year-old girl.

Carrying national flags, a group of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Muslims gathered at Bahu Plaza Park in Jammu to convey the message that “we may come from different religions but we all are one against social crimes.”

In Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, social activists, theatre artistes, students and volunteers gathered at the Gandhi statue near the general post office (GPO) on Sunday evening demanding justice in the Unnao and Kathua rape cases.

Activist Deepak Kabir, who led the protest, said: “A rapist can be a Hindu, Muslim, Dalit or Christian but we need to understand that he is a rapist. The fight is against patriarchy and we need to push it harder.”

Former vice-chancellor, Lucknow University, and a social activist Prof Roop Rekha Verma said, “The Unnao and Kathua rape cases are not merely incidents of crime against women. It is a political matter where accused are being supported by top politicians of the country.”

“It is really shameful to see how the government is trying to protect rapists. If our leaders do so, how can we expect justice for victims,” asked a student who attended the protest.

Widespread protests were held throughout Kerala, where several organisations took to the streets, holding candle light marches in major cities.

Several youth organisations took an oath on Sunday to speak up against growing atrocities against women in the country.

Besides this, people took to social media in a big way to condemn the incidents.

In Kannur (north Kerala) a journalist named his two-month-old daughter after the Kathua victim and a writer told his publishers to contribute all his royalty to the family of the girl. Netizens started a spirited campaign against a bank manager who justified the Kathua killing and forced the bank to terminate his service. Later, the police also booked him.

In Madhya Pradesh, civil society members and students of Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT) organised candle light protests at different places in capital Bhopal on Sunday evening.

Abid Husain, a participant, said, “No religious colour should be given to the gang rape incident in Jammu and Kashmir. We want maximum punishment to the guilty so that it becomes an example for others.”

Several people joined a protest called by civil organisations in Chandigarh to seek justice for the Kathua victim. The protest was organised by the “Concerned Lawyers of Chandigarh” and the “Chandigarh Help Group” at Sector 17 Plaza.

“We are demanding justice for the girl who was raped and killed in Kathua,” city-based advocate Maninder Pal Singh Dhindsa, said.


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