Internet warriors take to war of perpetuating myths

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 4/17/2018 11:20:23 AM

Many falsehoods of propaganda machinery

JAMMU, April 16: In an era of internet and digitalization, the level of propaganda through circulation of many myths, stereo-types and fake news has taken a new high in the Kathua rape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl.
While nationwide horror and outrage has garnered much solidarity and support for the victims and those campaigning for her justice, the right wing groups and some other vested interests earlier trying to brazenly create communal polarization with the aim of projecting the accused in the case as victims have now turned into keyboard warriors and invaded the social media space. The same lies are also being pedalled by sections of professional media unquestioningly.
Many of the myths being perpetuated and circulated by the minute to provoke communal hatred. They are completely baseless and need to be exploded:
Myth 1: The family or those campaigning for justice are opposed to CBI enquiry because they have something to hide. There have been several cases in the past that have been referred to CBI by the state government. Why is it hesitant this time?
Truth: This is an erroneous argument. CBI enquiries are usually demanded by victim families dissatisfied by the progress of the investigating agencies. The victim family in this case has expressed its satisfaction with the investigation. Before the Crime Branch took over the investigations, the family and some supporters campaigning for justice had raised the demand for CBI enquiry because the police was dragging its feet.
There have to be enough reasonable grounds for suspecting wrong doing on part of investigating agencies to raise the demand for shifting the probe to another agency. Investigating agencies are not changed on the basis of pure majoritarian discourse.
There are many such precedents in the past of handing over cases of crime to CBI, though the fate of many of those cases remains unknown or has ended up in creating more confusion including the sex scandal case of 2007 and Shopian double rape and murder case of 2009.
The case is already sub-judice. The investigations are complete and it is only a fair and systemic practice that this first stands the scrutiny of the court before casting any aspersions.
Cases of crime are not handed over to CBI just for the heck of it or because there is an interest to save the accused. It would set a wrong precedent and create institutional problems.
Myth 2: Crime Branch comprised of only Kashmiri Muslims and they had a bias towards the community of the accused.
Truth: The SIT of the Crime Branch was earlier functioning under supervision of Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Crime, Alok Puri. After his retirement on February 28, the charge was handed over to IGP Crime, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba. It was headed by Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Crime Branch Jammu Ramesh Chander Jalla. Its other members included SP Naveed Pirzada, DySP Shwetambri Sharma (the sole female in the team), Sub Inspector Irfan Wani, Inspector K K Gupta and Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Tariq Ahmad. Only SP Naveed and Tariq Ahmad are Muslims from Kashmir.
The composition of investigating teams within institutions like police is not done on the basis of community based representation but on basis of their caliber.
Myth 3: The accused include members of only one community and not ‘theirs’.
Truth: Arrest of accused is not an exercise akin to creation of a representative public body where communal identities need to be balanced. Probes are dictated by evidence and not by the need to create a proportionate demographic balance.
Myth 4: Gujjars-Bakerwals are harbouring militants and are forcibly occupying forest lands.
Truth: Barring some aberrations, there is no major presence of militants in the area and there is not even a shred of evidence to suggest that. In one case in 2015, one Gujjar person was arrested for providing shelter to a militant.
These nomadic communities follow a very simple way of life that is ecologically sustainable and as tribal communities, they have every right to use of forest land.
Myth 5: The PDP-led government is favouring the nomadic community and wants to change the demography of Jammu region by settling them in Jammu.
Truth: The nomads have been traditionally following a seasonal migratory pattern of life. They normally do not settle down (barring some exceptions) but move to the upper reaches of Himalayas in the summers and move towards the plains in the winters.
Myth 6: First post-mortem report mentions only murder and not the rape of the minor.
Truth: There has been only one post-mortem report right from the very beginning. The post-mortem of the 8-year-old was conducted by a team of doctors in District Hospital Kathua on January 17, after her body was found.
Doctors observed that her hymen was not intact and her uterus had suffered haemorrhage, concluding on the basis of these observations that the victim was prima-facie raped before being killed.
Myth 7: It is impossible to hold someone captive and rape for 8 days in a temple which is always crowded and is situated in the middle of the street. People used to pray there three times a day.
Truth: The place of worship in question is not a routine temple but Devisthan, a practice of worship peculiar to Dogras. Almost every community in a village has a separate devisthan where ‘kul-devtas’ are worshipped only on occasions. Sanjhi Ram, accused to be the main conspirator in the case, was the custodian and priest of the place and he alone had the key to this place of worship.
This devisthan is not located in a crowded place but almost behind the village, more than a kilometer away where, according to the Crime Branch charge-sheet, the victim was kept in a sedated state for several days before she was killed.
Myth 8: The girl's body had mud deposits which did not belong to the area which suggests that she was murdered somewhere else and her body was thrown in the temple premises.
Truth: This is the most bizarre of all the falsehoods being perpetuated. The chargesheet says that the photograph of the victim after her body was found showed traces of clay on the clothes which were washed by the police officers after the post-mortem to destroy evidence. The clothes and the body were in possession of the medical experts after which her body was handed over to the family for the last rites. When was any forensic examination of any claimed mud samples taken? Who took that and where were these tested?
The assertion that she was murdered somewhere else and her body was thrown in the temple premises is another falsehood as her body was found in the forest and not inside the temple.
Myth 9: When villagers raised concern over Rohingyas being settled in the area, Mufti government got rattled.
Truth: The Rohingyas are recognized as refugees by the UNHCR and even though India is not a signatory to UN conventions on refugees, as a norm Indian government respects the rights of such refugees to reside in the country. They are legally called foreign immigrants and even in the case of Rohingyas, the government allows those with necessary UN documentation to reside anywhere in the country. About 5000 Ronhingyas are living in Jammu for more than a decade. There are no Rohingyas living close to Rassana village where the crime happened and they are completely unrelated to the case. This is yet another trumped up communally inspired charge.
Myth 10: Mufti sends officer Irfan Wani to create a new case, who was previously accused of raping a girl and murdering her brother in police custody. After Irfan Wani got involved, new report was created and 'rape' was inserted without any forensic evidence and locals were tortured in the name of investigation.
Truth: It is indeed true that the said officer was booked under a case of raping a girl and killing a young boy but was later exonerated after a departmental enquiry.
However, rape was never ‘added’ to the existing charges, it was always part of the investigation. This charge is based on the post-mortem that was conducted on the same day her body was found.
Myth 11: To protect the real culprits, innocents were framed including the officials from Jammu Police.
Truth: Such apprehensions must be supported by solid reasons for suspecting foul-play.
In any case, the charge-sheet has been presented with the name of accused. They will be facing trial in the court. If there is not enough evidence against them, the case will fall in the court. If the case is water-tight and they get convicted, they can still appeal for a review.
Myths 6 to 11figure in a social media post that has gone viral in Kathua and Jammu. The post originates from a page called Shankhnnad and according to a news report related to this post titled 'Why lawyers in Kathua are demanding a CBI Inquiry', online news website, the quint, reported on Monday that the page has a record of perpetuating communal disharmony.
According to this report, “In September 2017, ShankhNaad posted a video on Twitter that showed a blazing fire, stating that “Hindu temple, vehicle and cows in Gaushala were set on fire by Muslims mobs in Hyderabad. The Hyderabad police confirmed that no such violence had taken place anywhere in the city. Another example of stoking communal disharmony — in October 2017, they put up a photo of a beheaded Swami Vivekananda statue and pinned the responsibility on Muslims in Badhohi, UP.”



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