It seems there is no end to this shame. And with every new attempt to disrupt the probe into the rape and murder of the eight-year-old, it seems sections of the civil society in Jammu are pushing the boundaries of what can be described as lumpen and dishonourable conduct. It was appalling to see the lawyers, the supposed upholders of justice, prevent the Crime Branch to file charge-sheet in the rape-murder case of the eight-year-old girl in Kathua on Monday. As the Crime Branch entered the court premises, the lawyers led by president of Kathua Bar Association Kirti Bhushan Mahajan blocked its way, raising slogans. The submission of charge-sheet, as a result, was delayed by several hours. The chief judicial magistrate was finally able to accept the challan against seven of the eight accused around 9.30 pm.

The disgraceful behaviour of the lawyers has appalled the state, including the majority of the people in Jammu. It seems unthinkable and nauseautic that a section of people would rise to the defence of the accused in the rape and murder of a child who was held captive in a temple, drugged, raped and then murdered. But this unthinkable has happened ever since the crime took place on January 11, not once but almost everyday. What is more, with ruling BJP and sometimes even Congress leaders supporting it and egging it on. Police have so far made eight arrests in the case, among them Sanji Ram, a former revenue official, his son Vishal Kumar, two SPOs and a minor.

The details of the rape and murder are chilling. Forensic tests have revealed she had been held captive under the influence of sedatives in a Hindu prayer hall maintained by Sanji Ram. After the murder, she wasn’t allowed to be buried in the graveyard owned by her family and relatives, forcing them to bury her eight kilometres away in another village. Probe so far has revealed that it was a pre-planned killing geared to instil fear among the Bakarwal nomads residing in the area and drive them out.

Far from becoming an issue which should have brought the people together across the political and religious divide, the rape and murder of the eight-year-old has become a fresh source of polarisation in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the coalition partners the People’s Democratic Party and the BJP are not on the same page, with some Congress leaders also supporting the BJP line. And this is a tragedy. This means the rape and murder of a minor girl is no longer an issue. The arrest of the alleged perpetrators is. This state of affairs is disgusting, to put it mildly. The question that needs to be asked is this: why isn’t the Kathua victim another Nirbhaya? Why is there silence about her rape and murder in the national media. What explains the absence of outrage on the issue in television studios, which otherwise keep manufacturing fake fury over sometimes the non-existent stories to ply a certain agenda or earn more TRPs. Why?

This article first appeared on Kashmir Observer.