#MeToo in India: 'Pained, unnerved,' says Kashmiri tribal students' group after Kathua activist accused of rape

The tribal Gujjar Bakerwal community of Jammu and Kashmir has been at the receiving end of oppression, stigma and exploitation since ages. The miserable plight of this vulnerable and marginalised community got some attention in the wake of the Kathua rape and murder case.

The Kathua case, however, was not an isolated instance of violence against an individual. This was, as confirmed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police Crime Branch report, a planned attack on the whole Gujjar Bakerwal community; as the perpetrators wanted to instil fear in the community in order to drive the tribals out of their respective places.

 #MeToo in India: Pained, unnerved, says Kashmiri tribal students group after Kathua activist accused of rape

A protester raises a placard reading "#MeToo" during a rally against sexual harassment . Reuters

It was a political move aiming at a change in the demography of the Jammu region.

The harrowing acts of violence, oppression and displacement have continued even after a recognition of the predicament of tribals of Jammu and Kashmir by the civil society across the world. It is only a couple of days back when we heard the news that a speeding truck mowed down a shepherd and his flock of sheep and goats near Thopal on Batote-Kishtwar road in Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir. These are routine incidents overlooked by the media, society and politics. There is no one ‘articulate enough’, ‘political enough’ or even ‘educated enough’ to raise these issues, nor is there any space for such voices.

In the Kathua case, the tribal community, for the first time, felt grateful to the society and the media for the recognition of its scars and wounds. It is in this movement that a few activists from the community raised their voices against the brutality of the oppressors. The whole tribal community stood in support of all the activists who highlighted the case and also raised the grievances of the community. There were protests, marches, slogans, writings and many other forms of resistance against such oppression and exploitation.

Fikr-e-Farda Society is a group of tribal students (supported by many non-tribal students) from Jammu and Kashmir which actively participated in the movement. It extended its full support to all the activists who were fighting for the case.

However, it is so painful, unnerving and disheartening to come to know about the accusations of rape and sexual harassment against one of the activists who were leading the movement. We stand by the account of the survivor and condemn in strongest possible words the shameful act of the accused.

Fikr-e-Farda Society distances and dissociates itself from the accused and appeals to all the tribals to expose such criminals within the community.

We hereby declare that such activists don’t deserve to represent the tribal community in any forum in future. It is an appeal to all to keep fighting for gender justice and the rights of the tribals. We appeal to all to keep supporting us in our fight against all forms of violence, oppression and exploitation.

Updated Date: Oct 21, 2018 23:59:58 IST