Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rajneesh Sharma's torture and murder

When silence tells a story

He and his kith and kin were hounded for over a month. No human rights organisation came to their defence. On the fateful night of September 29, the lawless arm of the law finally caught up with him. He was whisked away from Jammu to Srinagar. A week later — on October 6 — his body was found hanging in the Ram Munshi Bagh police station in Srinagar. The police said it was suicide. Just five weeks after their marriage, his bride became a widow.

Rajneesh Sharma’s only crime was that he was a Hindu from Jammu who had fallen in love with a Muslim woman from the Valley. He did not convert to Islam. Instead, the girl, Amina Yousaf, adopted Hinduism and took the name Aanchal Sharma after marriage. Her father, Mohammad Yousaf, a Sub-Inspector in the Sales Tax Vigilance Department in Srinagar, could not reconcile himself with this. At his instance, the helpful State police and the pliable, communalised administration came down heavily on Rajneesh and his family. ......

While the local media covered this macabre tragedy in detail, the national dailies, with the exception of The Pioneer, almost blacked it out.

The torture marks on Rajneesh’s body, seen by scores of people on its arrival in Jammu exposed the brutality the policemen practised. There were cigarette burn marks all over. His nails had been pulled out. Other evidence of torture suggests that he was given the option of giving up either the woman he loved or his faith. The courage Rajneesh showed in the face of such torture — which has been confirmed by post-mortem as well — needs to be commended.

Let us contrast the indifference towards Rajneesh’s death case with how civil society reacted in Kolkata when an influential and rich Hindu, Ashok Todi, was accused of getting the police to help him deal with a Muslim man, Rizwanur Rahman, who dared to marry his daughter. The people of Kolkata, irrespective of their religion, rose in protest. Some of India’s greatest intellectuals went and forced the Government to order an impartial probe which led to the prosecution of both Todi and the police officers who colluded with him.

Contrast Kolkata’s reaction with the deafening silence in Srinagar and Delhi over Rajneesh’s custodial death. The victim is from Jammu & Kashmir’s minority community. Will Rajneesh have to become a Rizwanur to get justice in India?

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Hindu minorities insecure in J&K
Why is Rajneesh different from Rizwan

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