"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Asifa remembered at Surrey Vaisakhi parade Featured

 

An eight-year-old who was raped and murdered in Kathua, India was remembered at the Surrey Vaisakhi parade on Saturday, April 21.

Asifa Bano, who belonged to a Muslim nomad community, was kidnapped, held captive in a Hindu temple, sedated, raped and then brutally murdered in January this year. Although her relatives and activists followed the whole episode closely, the issue got international attention only recently. While angry protests were held all over the globe, including one in Surrey last Thursday, United Nations and International Monetary Fund also came out with strong statements.

What outraged most people was the support given to the accused in the case by the leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

The police charge sheet has established that this was done as part of a larger conspiracy to intimidate the community members of the deceased child and force them to migrate. It is believed that rape was used as a weapon to shame the Muslims. The assailants kidnapped Asifa when she had taken family horses for grazing. Her body was later dumped in a jungle.  

On Thursday, hundreds of people assembled at Holland Park in Surrey to attend the vigil organized by Global Girl Power. The widespread anger was noticed across the Lower Mainland. Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt and her team took to social media to register their protest. Datt even tweeted in Hindi and questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party has either tried to shield the perpetrators or is trying to dilute the matter.

During Vaisakhi parade, where 500,000 people showed up, posters carrying pictures of the victim with the slogan “Justice for Asifa” could be seen on display at various corners along the route. Some floats, such as one belonging to Mamta Foundation, which tries to help abandoned girls and the destitute in India, also carried the poster.

Dashmesh Darbar Sikh temple spokesperson Gian Singh Gill told the Radical Desi that the community here is distraught over what happened to Asifa, and these posters were manifestation of that anger. The Surrey Vaisakhi parade is held every year under the aegis of Dashmesh Darbar.

On Sunday, visiting human rights activists from India Teesta Setalvad and Buta Singh spoke about the case of Asifa at an event organized by Radical Desi, Indians Abroad for Pluralist India, Seerat and Punjabi Sahit Sabha (Mudhli). Both speakers told the gathering at Surrey Newton Library that Asifa’s rape and murder is part of a pattern of using the bodies of women and young girls as battlefields. They insisted that any attempt to dilute the gravity of this case is helping the perpetrators and the BJP which is backing them.

Those in attendance included MLA Rachna Singh, prominent media broadcasters Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, Imtiaz Popat and Balli Kaur Deol (who was one of the organizers of the Thursday vigil), Makhan Tutt of Mamta Foundation, film actor BKS Rakhra, Sikh activist Barjinder Singh, social justice activist Sunil Kumar, Indian rationalist society leader Avtar Gill, East Indian Defence Committee members Harbhajan Cheema and Parminder Kaur Swaich, communist activists Shahnaz Nighat and Navtej Johal, and the publisher of Alameen Post newspaper Jaffer Bhamji – who also organized an event for Asifa at Riverside Signature Banquet Hall in Surrey on Monday, April 23.   

Later, the participants rallied outside the library carrying placards asking for justice for Asifa and raised slogans against the forces that are trying to shield the accused.

 

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