Sumbal: A week since she was raped, the three-year-old victim assaulted by a neighbour in Kashmir’s Sumbal region is unable to stand, and remains deeply fearful of strangers.
The accused has been arrested and his family has moved out of their home in Malikpora village, but the child’s relatives say it will be a long time before she can wander and play freely, as she did before 8 May, when she was allegedly raped in the toilet of a local school.
The child has no external wounds but is currently under treatment for serious internal injuries. They will eventually heal, but her family is worried about the impact of the assault on the child’s mental state.
One day this past week, her family members told ThePrint, she was inconsolable when her parents left her behind to go to the police station. Unable to stand yet, she mostly stays in the lap of her parents or female family members as she is wary of most men, they added.
“The doctors told us to keep her away from crowds or crowded places, but also not to leave her alone,” the father said. “We noticed she was getting nervous with a lot of people around.”
The child is still afraid of going to the bathroom, and often has to be cajoled and convinced by her family.
“I shudder to tell her story. Even animals are kinder,” said a family member.
Social media fans fires
The Sumbal rape shook the Kashmir Valley, prompting both peaceful rallies and violent street protests, with some even demanding death sentence for the accused. Social media users on Facebook and Twitter fanned the flames by first revealing the name of the victim, and then that she was a Shia and the accused a Sunni.
Police are investigating the video of a bloodied, injured girl that was circulated and projected as that of the victim, before it was discovered to be from West Asia.
The family told ThePrint that they had not released any pictures of the girl, saying it was a tragedy that her identity had been revealed. According to them, doctors have suggested that they should try to make her forget the horrific incident slowly.
Amid fears of sectarian clashes, the Jammu & Kashmir Ittehadul Muslimeen, a party that belongs to the Hurriyat faction headed by separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, called for a strike across Kashmir Sunday. Angry residents in Bandipora district blocked roads and attacked civilian vehicles Monday, but the anger shifted toward the security forces as well.
“This is a crime against the entire humanity, and the last thing we want is to divide people on the issue of religion or sect,” the father of the victim said. “I am humbled that people protested but my request to them is to voice their opinion without violence.”
‘A tragedy has hit our village’
The village of Malikpora is located in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. It is home to 90 families, around 50 of which are Shia and the remaining Sunni.
The clashes just outside the village and across Kashmir have residents worried. After the alleged rape, personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police were posted outside the home of the accused to repulse retaliatory attacks. The family has since moved out.
“A tragedy has hit our village and there are vested interests making it a sectarian issue,” said Mohammad Manzoor, a local businessman in Malikpora. “Shame on the people who are using the misery of a small girl to their benefit.”
Mohammad Shafi, another resident, almost broke down while pointing towards the toilet where the crime allegedly took place.
“Islam stands for justice and it must be delivered swiftly,” he added.
The accused and his family were described as a social menace by almost everyone with whom ThePrint spoke Tuesday.
Their alleged escapades with the law, mysterious lifestyle, history of violence and crime, and tendency to stay aloof, which is rare in Kashmir, are widely discussed in the village.
“The father of the accused was well-off at one point, but lost everything due to his gambling habits. Everything went downhill [from there],” said Mohammad Ibrahim, a local farmer and a friend of the accused’s father.
“He sold one of his sons for Rs 5,000 to a family that wanted a male child. That family gave him a newborn girl in return, but the boy passed away, so they came to take their girl back. They had to pay another Rs 10,000,” he added.
Other villagers accused the sons of engaging in theft. “One day, he (the accused) returned home late with a bloodied face and claimed he had met with an accident but, as we probed further, we found he had been caught stealing, and thrashed,” said one villager.
Villagers told ThePrint that it was on their advice that the family had left Malikpora in light of the rape.
“After he was arrested, the villagers went to the family. They wanted to leave. We told them that no one will punish them for the crime of their son, but, with tempers running so high, it would be in their interest to leave,” said one of the residents. “They eventually did.”