An Open Letter to anyone who could sleep after KATHUA ; What happens after an 8 year old gets gang raped in Kashmir, India

Aparna Gopan
Posted April 14, 2018 from India
Don't mourn for me, Rise Instead
A eulogy for the eight-year-old who was gang-raped in KATHUA

I write this, sleep-deprived from the weight of yesterdays.

All I can think of are the songs that the little girl in Kathua hummed as she took her ponies out to graze on the 10th of January, the stories she wanted to share with her brother, the thought of her mother preparing food for her hungry stomach and the colors of the new clothes she wanted her father to buy for the new school year.

I can’t stop thinking of that all these memories have been long cremated. And that in their place stands a broken house, a terrified community, a divided country and a world full of sleep-deprived souls. I have narrated the gruesome details of Kathua over and over, trying to break the silence around it like many others. But I am tired. I am tired because I can’t help change the past. I am tired because I can’t but feel like an accomplice.

I guess this is what happens when crime goes beyond individual malice. And at this confusing confluence of religious tension, gender-based violence, communal hatred, party politics and shrewd nationalism, I can’t but feel helpless. I can’t but feel guilty. I feel guilty about the society we have forged for our little ones. All those years of tolerance of patriarchy and communalism has taken its toll. And yet, we are doing nothing.

Our young generation goes to school every morning and stand with their hands outstretched, reciting the Indian Pledge. I see people stand up for National Anthem in movie theatres with their heads held high. Yesterday, I heard of lawyers who took to the streets with the Indian tricolor held up high, in defense of those accused in the gang rape case of a minor, demanding the deportation of Rohingyas. And I wonder, what are you asking me to be proud of?

Are we proud of the fact that we did nothing as the country got divided across borders, caste, religion, gender and communities? Are we rejoicing the future of a fundamentalist party we elected into power? Are we relieved that we stood as mere spectators to Dadri mob lynching? Are we celebrating the death of around 300 manual scavengers who died in our potholes full of caste, more than shit? Are we exhilarated that communal violence in India has risen by 28% in the last four years? Are we not shocked that there has been a 277% rise in the rape cases reported in our capital in the last five years alone?

Aren’t we upset, disgusted, helpless, angry, ashamed and all the more, dead inside? A 15 page charge sheet, 82 days of investigation and over 3 months of silence over the gruesome murder of an 8 year old over communal hatred in Kashmir later, we are still doing nothing. We are not wondering why “rape” is being used as a tool to threaten marginalized communities. We are not taking measures to stop “sexual violence” being used as a war weapon or a political tool to ensure submission. We are not changing systems of gender-roles or patriarchal ideologies which let rape threats be meted out as casual jokes within homes and social settings. We are not fighting fundamentalist institutions and religious divisions which make the mob out of a crowd. We are not talking about those taboos that keep grave issues from being discussed and dealt with.

All we are doing is mourning the dead as they fall prey to the passive silence and blame-games we chose over active rebellion. And that is why, I am guilty. I am tired. I am sleep-deprived from all this burden of yesterdays I helped create. And you should be too.



This story was submitted in response to Share On Any Topic.

Comments 8

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Soumya Vilekar
Apr 14, 2018
Apr 14, 2018

Absolutely agree with you in your heart wrenching narration of the reality that we all are facing today. Insecurity, unsafe atmosphere, violence and innumerable things hang over our head as swords . This incident has shook again all our lives and yet we are again on there where politics and politicization has taken over things.
Will the voices help to resolve and curb such crimes,still remains a question/

Jill Langhus
Apr 14, 2018
Apr 14, 2018

Hi Aparna. I agree that these crimes are abhorrent, and should be stopped, so what do you think the best course of action is to stop these sort of acts at the root? More education? Do you feel NGOs such as Safecity are making enough of an impact or we need more organizations doing even more?

Tamarack Verrall
Apr 15, 2018
Apr 15, 2018

Dear Aparna,

I hope your call for action as we mourn Kathua travels far and wide, shaking awake the sleeping, moving into action those not paying attention. I hope that you, committed activist and story carrier, will find the time, the rest, the support from others who care as you do. Every time the torture, the death of, the horrid treatment of a woman or girl is spoken openly with the determination you show, that more mourning is not enough, we can all carry your words and your message so that Kathua is not forgotten and so that all the others will not, either. We are creating a new expectation, a new level of consciousness of what needs to be done, and our circle is stronger than ever before.

With love in sisterhood,

soul on fire
May 17, 2018
May 17, 2018

It is amazing and powerful.
I don't understand how those monsters can look in the mirror.
Asifa didn't deserve this. It's so heartbreaking to know the torture she went through.

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Jun 01, 2018
Jun 01, 2018

Yes, it is true. Mourning about that inhumane act is one thing, but doing something eye-opening about it takes every citizen concerned into action.

May your call for justice stir actions, and even movements. No woman, especially girls, should experience this tragic violence again.

It bleeds my heart that this is still happening even in my country. Every time I hear about rape (with violence and death) from the news, I wanted the perpetrators be tortured to death. It really triggers strong emotions.

Feb 06, 2019
Feb 06, 2019

My dear Aparna i feel your pains but that is the world we find ourselves in. it is not only happening in India but the world over and the security agencies and judicial are not doing enough to curb these violence. Peace builders which i am one have been trying but we have to create more peace builders to support the existing ones. thank you so much for bringing up this story to our notice. There are so much we need to do. Lets all Rise and build peace in our communities, region and the world over. congrats

Juliet Acom
Mar 12, 2019
Mar 12, 2019

It took me alot of effort to read this. Only the title shook me!
I can't imagine how any sane person can do such a thing and more so to a child. You are right, Asifa did not deserve this.
It should be our collective effort to protect everybody in our communities especially children. Thank you for speaking out

This is so sad.

Mar 21, 2019
Mar 21, 2019

Insecurities and violence as you mentioned are all around us. So sad as its it we must live with it. Do you think your organization is doing enough in this sector? Maybe you can reach out to others?