- NL Sena
Valley-based artists express their grief and solidarity.
Cartoonists and artists from Kashmir were not unaffected by the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. According to reports, the motive behind the crime was to drive away the nomadic Bakerwal community from Kathua that is about 50 km from Jammu. The illustrations and cartoons highlighted the gruesome crime, and also the muddy politics surrounding the investigation into the incident.
Suhail Naqshbandi, editorial cartoonist for the daily Greater Kashmir, says it took him some time to wrap his head around the gruesome incident. He says he couldn’t process how some people, including lawyers, could rally in support of the rape and murder accused in Jammu. “It has hit the lowest of the lows at so many levels,” says Naqshbandi. “Right from the unspeakable violence on the poor child to the mentality of the people who are against getting her justice, to lawyers trying to block filling of the Challan against the accused in the Kathua court and then threatening the lawyer who is pleading her case, it couldn’t get worse.”
For Naqshbandi, it was difficult – and painful – to read beyond a few paragraphs of the charge sheet produced by the Crime Branch in the local court against the rape and murder accused. “A small kid kept in confinement, tortured, starved and gang-raped for days and finally killed in such a barbaric way…imagine her plight. They are not sparing her even after she is dead,” the cartoonist says, adding that it can’t get worse when two ministers from the governing PDP-BJP government attend a rally and come out in support of the perpetrators and not the victim’s family. “And it’s a shame that the CM had no issues till now to continue having such ministers in the Cabinet.”
Naqshbandi has made many cartoons highlighting various aspects of the case in the past three months, which were published in Greater Kashmir. One of the cartoons shows a devil saying “disgusting” upon encountering a rally taken out in support of the rape and murder accused in Jammu, with people in the rally carrying Indian flag in their hands. Another cartoon shows a BJP hand throwing nails, obstructing the investigation into the rape and murder of the 8-year-old. In another cartoon he shows the National Congress and PDP accusing each other of the incident, trying to score brownie points over the horrific crimes committed. While NC points fingers at PDP, raising questions about the rape and murder of the eight-year-old during their rule, the PDP in turn questions NC over the earlier Asiya and Neelofar murder case, which took place when NC was in power in the state back in 2009.
S Tariq, another valley-based cartoonist for Kashmir Images, says the murder of the innocent eight-year-old girl deeply saddened and shocked him. “It was particularly sickening to see some advocates in Kathua district openly coming out in support of the rapists and murderers,” says Tariq. “Lawyers are meant to interpret laws and deliver justice in favour of the victims but here it was the opposite. It was an unfortunate and shameful act on part of Kathua Bar Association to prevent police from registering the Challan against the rape and murder accused in the court.”
A cartoon made by Tariq shows a lawyer representing the Kathua Bar Association in black robes, his face facing his back as he’s unable to face the public in front.
Hina Aarif, a young artist from Srinagar, also made a few posters demanding justice for the eight-year-old Kathua girl and calling for the rapists and killers of the 8-year-old girl to be hanged. “It is such a sorry state of affairs when policemen who are supposed to protect people are found involved in such heinous crime and that too against a girl child,” she says. “At least this case should not be forgotten like the previous Shopian rape and murder case of 2009. This little girl must not be denied justice.”
Tufail Qureshi, a 35-year-old government employee from Srinagar who has been painting since childhood, made another moving artwork on the plight of Kathua girl, which he later shared and went viral on social media. In his painting, the little girl is seen taking her horses out for grazing and behind her, some dark shadowy hands reach out to grab her. “She is moving out somewhere in the universe as this world is overtaken by dark souls with devilish proclivities,” explains Qureshi, adding that his work is dedicated to the “pristine free soul that the girl would have dreamed of as her future before it was put to an unexpected end in such a harrowing way.”
He says his work underscores the pain and despair with which the little girl is leaving this world with her horses in search of a better place. “The innocent girl deserved to fly in the skies and glide down the meadows like any other mountain girl of Kashmir.”
Mir Suhail, another popular cartoonist from the valley, who is presently based in New Delhi and working as senior art director at Network 18, also made some telling cartoons and illustrations reflecting on the tragedy, the politics and the belated outrage surrounding her brutal rape and murder. In one of his illustrations, the dead body of the girl is shown lying inside the grave and surrounded by many Twitter and Facebook posts signifying the belated social media outrage that means little for her and her family now. In another cartoon, state chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is shown speaking on stage with her hand on her heart. Her shadow in the background shows her long nose, pointing out her insincerity.
“I wanted to show that all the politicians and especially those in power have failed the little girl…and she is dead now,” Suhail says after a brief pause. “And all the late outrage that we are seeing now about this case cannot bring her back.”
Note: This story has been updated in line with the Delhi High Court’s order.