When the gut-wrenching story of how an eight-year-old was gang-raped multiple times and stoned to death made headlines, the nation cried. The victim, who belonged to the nomadic Bakarwal community was allegedly abducted and held in captivity in the devisthan of a small village temple in Kathua district for days in January 2018.
As per the charge sheets filed by the Crime Branch, this Kathua rape and murder case was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the nomadic community from the area.
If that was not all, a host of Hindu extremists and attorneys staged protests and threatened to immolate themselves outside a courthouse in Jammu and Kashmir, to stop the police from filing charges against the men accused in the heinous crime against the eight-year-old.
In another case that shook the country, BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district. The case came to the forefront after the survivor’s family alongside her tried to immolate herself outside CM Yogi Adityanath’s home. They said that police inaction after running from pillar to post to seek justice had driven them to try to kill themselves. The family shared the details of how the woman, then a minor was raped by the MLA and his accomplices last year. They also shared how they were subject to physical violence after filing a police complaint.
The case waged a public outrage after the victim’s father who was first allegedly thrashed by the MLA’s son and then jailed, died in judicial custody.
Citizens groups across the country have taken to the streets, organised candle marches and yelled slogans in a bid to drive legal action for justice for the two victims and their families. Some of them have also come forward to launch an online crowdfunding campaign to help the bereaved families financially.
Launched on Friday, in association with CrowdNewsing, a campaign organisation, this fundraiser raised over Rs 15 lakh with 700 supporters in one day. In four days, the campaign has raised a whopping Rs 35,21,160 with 1454 supporters including prominent donors like Omar Abdullah who donated Rs 25000 and comedian Vir Das who donated over Rs 60,000.
The campaign that was originally started to support the eight-year-old’s family with Rs 10 lakh was extended to raise funds for the Unnao victim’s family too. As per an update on the crowdfunding page, the total amount raised will be equally divided among the families. Further, these funds aim to support not just the families but the lawyers fighting on their behalf too.
Jammu lawyer Deepika Rajawat who has been relentlessly fighting pressure from the protesting lawyers to give up the case feels that things may get difficult when the attention from the case is lost. Along with her team, she is fighting the case for the family in a pro-bono capacity.
“I am not scared, but I am not feeling safe either. Protesters (lawyers) are trying to put pressure on me so that I don’t fight for justice. But I will continue to fight Asifa’s case. I have full faith in the police investigation,” Rajawat told TV channels.
Shehla Rashid, one of the activists who initiated the crowdfunding campaign revealed how the campaign was kickstarted after they saw lawyers obstructing filing of the charge sheet on Monday.
While the state government is trying to assure the family that legal proceedings will not be obstructed, the eight-year-old’s family is slowly losing hope that justice will be delivered to their daughter.
They have even left the village because they believe the only way they can get justice is if the case is to move out of Jammu. And since the move won’t be easy, the family will require legal support and resources to pursue this case from another city.
“This is where we, the people of this country come in. If we could raise enough funds for the family and create a legal fund for them, there is a good chance that the family will have the resources they need to continue their quest for justice,” requested the petitioners on the crowdfunding platform.
“Every time our government fail our people, it becomes the duty of the citizens to come together and support those in need. Ordinary citizens have once again proved that they are in-charge of this society,” Bilal Zaidi, founder and community coordinator at CrowdNewsing told India Times.
The CrowdNewsing community has previously helped fellow citizens like the families of deceased photographer Ankit Saxena and deceased labourer Afrazul Khan. While Saxena was murdered for courting a Muslim girl in west Delhi’s Raghubir Nagar, Khan was axed and burned alive in a hate crime.
You can also be a part of this movement to help the Khatua and Unnao families. Donate to the cause here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)