THE EDITOR: I read of the abduction, rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl tending her family’s ponies in a village in India on the foot of the Himalayan mountains near Kashmir. She seems no different from the little seven-year-old whose throat was cut in the Maracas hills recently, nor, on a different level, the seven-year-old Venezuelan little girl sitting barefooted in the cold and in the dark in a strange country. “Thank heaven for little girls” I would have quoted in a previous letter, Maurice Chevalier singing of them in “Gigi.”
Shouldn’t little girls in their innocence inspire the human touch in all of us? Yet they are raped and bludgeoned, murdered and left in the cold in the dark without mercy.
This incident should be of some relevance to us in this country and should goad us into some kind of reflection because of our deep cultural connection with India. And on this basis the question to ask is whether the little Muslim girl from Kashmir, like any other little Trinidadian Muslim girl, should be regarded as a mere statistic amidst the horrendous statistics, according to the news item, of Indian men in India raping and murdering women and little girls in that country? The gruesome rape and murder of a student in a Delhi bus in 2012 and the hanging of another hanging a tree after being raped and murdered are chilling manifestations.
The sad thing about this evil against women in India and its relative tolerance by the wider society, even within the judicial system, is an enduring cultural norm which subjugates women to a level of inferiority of which the child bride, sati (self-immolation in the funeral pyre of their husbands), and the dowry factor and how it affects young girls are just some symptoms.
The little Muslim girl may have been a victim of this ideology, but could her rape and murder be also linked to the Hindu/Muslim conflict over the independence of Kashmir, that conflict often playing itself out in skirmishes on the border and on other occasions when one side would have found it opportune to target the other?
Is the abduction, rape and murder of this little Muslim girl part of this religion/political situation, moreso as the guilty parties, according to the trial, were Hindu men?
It is also instructive that there was a Hindu reaction to the verdict of the court to incarcerate these guilty Hindu men with claims from a Hindu radical group that in the context of what took place, the men should be regarded as being innocent.
And it was also reported that when the trial was shifted to the neighbouring Punjab state that local Hindu leaders and politicians were trying to block the investigation.
Evil as this may be, the politics of it all is not unexpected, but the supreme irony of it is that there is underlying religiosity which seeks, implicitly, to rationalise rape and murder, of an innocent at that, when religion should bring mankind together.
But I am not naive about questioning a religio/political divide that is as old as history. Yet I can recall from my youth growing up in the rural Indian way in this country, two lines of an Indian song by one of India’s greatest playback singers, Mohammed Rafi, taken from an Indian movie I can’t quite remember as follows:
Ishwar, Allah, tera naam’
Sab ko sankat, hay bhagwan
To mean that you may be called Ishwar (Hindu) or Allah (Muslim), but you are one god (bhagwan) to all of us (Sab ko sankat).
It is a good maxim for us to follow in this country to save us from the likes of the incident in Kashmir, and perhaps if these Hindu men in India who raped and bludgeoned this little Muslim girl had heard this song, maybe their tune would have been different.
DR ERROL N BENJAMIN via e-mail